Most of the photos you’ve seen from our trip to Texas are of relatives on my husband’s mother’s side, whose own mother was the oldest of 13 children and was born in a Texas Panhandle dug-out. That colossal scene can be contrasted with my husband’s father’s side, which amounts these days only to Elaine, above, a fellow blog reader of yours. Her mother was my husband’s father’s older sister.
When I became part of this family almost 24 years ago, Elaine quickly became a soul-sister of mine, and it was so good to see her again! It had been too long. One of the things we did while together was to pour over some old photos of Elaine’s mom– or Aunt Ruth as we call her– and I obtained permission to share some of those shots with y’all. Check them out below.
Aunt Ruth was known as the “culture vulture” to her nieces and nephews, and like a great homeschooling mom before her time, she was forever trotting them off to something edifying. She had high standards and you best not be found lacking.
My favorite story of Aunt Ruth is one my husband tells of when he was in France on his junior year abroad during college. Aunt Ruth wrote him a letter saying, “James ole’ boy, ole’ boy, if you take up with one of them thar French hussies, I’ll swim the Atlantic and beat you with a wire brush.” Gotta love that, don’t you?
When I came to meet this family before we were married, everyone would ask in hushed tones, “Has she passed the Aunt Ruth test?” Apparently, if Aunt Ruth didn’t like me, I could be worse than toast. But to everyone’s surprise, we hit it off and got along famously. We genuinely both liked each other. I garnered more than approval; I was welcomed with open arms, and loved her right back.
She liked me partly because I was a doctor’s daughter trained as an engineer. But who else could chat with her knowledgeably about the Dalai Lama? It wasn’t until on this recent trip, however, that I realized how much we had in common as women.
From what I know now, I’m convinced Aunt Ruth was what we would today call “gifted.” She went to the University of Chicago, and had so much ability that she was often frustrated or misunderstood. Seeing these old photos of her made me feel for all the stifled powerful women down through the ages. My heart goes out to all the Aunt Ruth’s out there that were stunted by, and unable to chafe successfully against, the status quo of the “weaker sex.”
I feel like Elaine and my generation is right on the cusp of changing all that, and that Aunt Ruth immediately saw that in me, and rejoiced. Neither of us ever felt critical of the other, but instead grateful were we were not alone. I think I’ve been able to become slightly more self-actualized than she was able to, but see that my own daughters have the whole world open to them for whatever direction they want to go. What bliss is that?
I feel a mix of sorrow for a world that didn’t get the best of women like Aunt Ruth, and also hope that we are moving (albeit too slowly) in the right direction. Imagine the blog Aunt Ruth would have written! I assure you this one pales in comparison to it.
[…] (from Aunt Ruth‘s scrapbook from her year at Colorado College, 1935) […]