We opened the gates on a barely-traveled road to take the lane up the hill to visit our family recluses. The brother and sister still lived in the small, rustic log cabin in which they were born. They felt little need of the outside world, except for his weekly Saturday trips to town in his Model T. Uncle Roy had purchased it new way-back-when, and it sat safely in the barn during the week. Unlike the used car that the little old lady drove only to church on Sundays in the Andy Griffith’s show, this car was in pristine condition.
They lived alone now that my great-grandmother had passed away, but I only remember her as a bed-fast figure on a single bed in the living area next to a window. My great-uncle Roy did leave the farm to serve in World War I, but I’m unsure if my Aunt Liza (Eliza Jane) ever traveled outside the county. They lived as their parents had: Uncle Roy hunted their woods for food, and planted a garden, and chopped firewood for cooking and heating; Aunt Liza cooked, dried, and canned their harvest for winter. Blankets and clothes had to be winter-worthy since the cabin was not. Chinks did fill the cracks, but that couldn’t take the place of good insulation. Aunt Liza still used great-grandmother’s pie safe for food. The pies and cookies were kept on the top shelf. A common question after supper was, “Ma, what’s on the high shelf?”
Conversations during these visits were lively. I was too young to offer anything, but I learned of colorful characters that had peopled our past. Even though their nearest neighbor was at least five miles away, and they had no phone, gossip made its way up their hill regularly. The radio played a central part in their lives, and so did the books and magazines beside their chairs.
One particular conversation that I recall was of Aunt Liza explaining the benefits she’d read about calcium. She pronounced the word ‘kal-kee-uhm’. Years later I heard that when a person uses a word correctly, but mispronounces it, you know that they had read it, not heard it. I remember my Aunt Liza as always upbeat and jolly. Since then, I have concluded that she did travel. Books carried her away from her tiny log cabin in the Southern Indiana Hills to the far-flung corners of the planet. But after her adventures, she could come back to the serenity and safety of her small home. Rather than make her restless, it had brought her contentment. Her clothes might still be homemade and her hands rough but for a little while, she could be a fashionable lady with soft, smooth hands. And that was enough.