My mother was visiting over the weekend and Saturday Jason, Alex, myself, and Mom sat on the deck and had hot dogs and fries from The Dog House. Saturday was clear and crisp in the morning and by midday things were heating up, but the warmth was nice and not too oppressive with the promise of summer in the gentle breezes ruffling the leaves on the tall pin oaks around the house.
Mom had somehow got onto the subject of summers at her Grandmother Cox’s house in Caldwell Ohio and I was intrigued by stories of an old woman who lived close by named Lonie [like in macaroni]. My mom and her cousins called her ‘crazy Lonie’ but undoubtedly she made a lasting impression because Mom still remembers and relates stories about her.
Sometimes I don’t really listen to my mom when she talks because she talks so much and so I often tune out and on this particular occasion, I tuned back in to hear her say she got into trouble for smashing eggs in Lonie’s apron pockets and laughing as she ate meatloaf that had soaked in dish soap. So, I asked her to go back and elaborate on these stories and here is what she told us.
Lonie was old– according to Mom– really really old. She always wore drab dresses covered with an apron, a bonnet, and dark shoes. Lonie showed up at Grandma Cox’s house on wash days religiously– I think she said that was Fridays– and she brought along her Papa’s clothing to wash. The only thing was, her Papa had long since been dead. She would wash and iron and carefully fold these clothes each week and then bring them back the next week to wash and prepare again.
Lonie was over 90 years old and apparently she was lonely, because she often showed up on the Cox family farm– on wash days, at supper or dessert time, or just any time would do. She lived not far down the road, but she did sometimes walk to town and when she took to the road, she walked the stripe in the middle slowly and methodically like she was walking a beam. When a car would come by, she would pause and turn her head to follow their car, glaring at them as if they had interrupted her walk or invaded her space along the middle of the road.
My mom was called “Jo” and she was the namesake of Nancy Jo who she called “Aunt Jo.” Nancy Jo was my Grandfather’s youngest sister and only 6 years or so older than my mom; so at the time of this event, Aunt Jo would have been a teen of about 16 and my mom, Jo, would have been only about ten years old. Evidently, the elder Jo tended to get the little Jo into a lot of trouble, because my mom would listen to Aunt Jo and do the bad things she told her to do.
Lonie had come up for wash day and had her apron over her house dress when the two Jo’s saw her take chicken eggs and put them into her apron pocket. Aunt Jo said to little Jo, “look at her stealing those eggs. You should go fall into her and smash them in her pockets.” And little Jo did just that. She walked up to Lonie, fell into her apron, and smashed the eggs. This landed her a spanking and a stern lecture from Grandma Cox who said, “do you think I didn’t see her take those eggs.. if she took them she must need them more than we do… don’t you ever let me see you do something like that again.”
Another time, Lonie had come along after supper time and the family had finished a large meatloaf [or several meat loaves]. My grandfather was one of 22 children and by the time my mom would visit only the youngest few lived at home, but there were still lots of mouths to feed and Grandma Cox was used to cooking large. The meatloaf pans were stuck up with a layer of crusty meatloaf and crumbles where it had burned some along the bottom and was needing a good soak before washing. The two Jo’s had put it on the table with a shallow layer of soapy water to soak off the burned meatloaf. Lonie walked up to that table and began picking pieces of the crumbles and crust from the water in the pan and eating them. The two Jo’s stood nearby doubling over in laughter at the old woman. When Grandma asked what they were laughing at, little Jo said…”Lonie was eating the meatloaf that was sitting in the soapy water.” Grandma said, “then why didn’t you stop her?” Little Jo replied, “because Aunt Jo told me not to.” Well little Jo got another spanking, and these were the only two that Grandma Cox ever gave her. Both of them came from making fun of Lonie.
After hearing these stories I was thinking I wish I had known Lonie. I would have liked to find out why she was washing her dead Papa’s clothes. I would have liked to ask her questions like “did you ever fall in love “or “are there things about your life you would change?” I would have also asked her to tell me about her childhood, since she would have been a child just after the Civil War.
As a child, when my mom was visiting the farm, it was the 1950’s, and Alex said he wished he lived then. We asked him why and he said because he thought things were simpler and purer then. I said, “well, they didn’t have WOW,” and he went back inside to play some more WOW 🙂