When I say that Mid was my favorite aunt, I don’t mean to imply that I didn’t love and respect the other six. Looking back, I think the reason Mid was so special had a lot to do with how she treated me.
In my youthful days, children were loved but not indulged as they are today. We were not the hub of our parents’ and grandparents’ universe. Yet during that era when we were told that children should be seen and not heard, Mid treated me as someone important.
She asked about my pets, how I was doing in school and was always interested in my musical progress. She affirmed me. My other aunts were kind to me as well, but they had children of their own. Although Mid was married at age 15, for many years she and her husband, John, were childless. Hence, she became a surrogate mother to her nieces.
The first house I lived in had just three rooms and — not a bath, but a path to the outhouse. Until I was 11 years old, my bed was the couch in the living room. Our running water was what we ran outside to pump. But when I was a small child — before I began school — I remember Mid and John coming to our house to play pinochle with my parents. However, before they began their game, I would insist that Mid play hide-and-seek with me.
I laugh now when I think about it. Where could I have possibly hidden in that small house? Yet, Mid took time for me, searching various places and feigning surprise when she found me — often under the coats that lay on my parents’ bed. She postponed the adult activities to brighten the life of her four-year-old niece.
Something else I remember is how she always gave me eye contact when she talked with me. Even as a little girl, I realized that she genuinely cared about me, my opinions, and what was going on in my life. She would have been a wonderful elementary teacher.
Mid was also the aunt of my lifelong friend, Mary Lou Watters and her little sister, Jody.
One day I asked my mother, “Are Mary Lou and Jody my cousins?”
“No,” was her reply.
“Then why do we have the same aunt?”
“Your dad’s sister married Mary Lou’s mother’s brother,” she explained.
Quickly I analyzed the situation and smugly announced to Mary Lou and Jody, “Mid’s more mine than yours. She was my aunt before she married your uncle! Her name was Kornmiller before it was Cooper.”
I smirked as Mary Lou immediately ran to her mother and asked in a tone of protest, “Is Mid more Karen’s aunt than she is mine?”
Many days were brightened by the words, “Mid’s here” or “Mid’s coming to Logan.” With Mary Lou, Jody and me, the only other person we were more excited about coming to Logan was Santa Claus! By the way, Mid never forgot us at Christmas, nor did she forget our birthdays.
When Mid was in her early 30s, she and John adopted a baby girl. Then wonder of wonders, eight years later and after 25 years of marriage, when she was 40 and John was 46, she learned she was pregnant! She had always wanted a child, but was apprehensive about becoming a mother at 40.
Her doctor was not at all encouraging when he explained that a first-time pregnancy at age 40 carries many risks, including various types of disabilities for the baby. William John arrived early but healthy and, most of all, a blessing to his parents. Mid laughed when she told about taking Billy to kindergarten for the first time and meeting the other mothers in their 20s who assumed she was the grandmother!
My Grandma Kornmiller was an excellent cook, and so was Mid. I can still remember their fried chicken, gravy, real mashed potatoes, and fresh peach pie.
My late father used to comment, “We now have a whole generation of people who have no idea what food is supposed to taste like.” We both enjoyed visits to Mid’s home in Columbus, especially since they always involved eating!
When I graduated from Logan High School, each senior had four tickets for family members. Those I chose were my parents, Grandma Kornmiller, and Mid.
After I became an adult, I continued to enjoy conversations with Mid. I still remember the sound of her voice — and her laugh. When my dad would take me to the airport for my flight back to Phoenix, I always arrived early to check in and have time to talk to my favorite aunt on the payphone.
Mid lived to be 85. At the funeral her daughter had recipes available for those who wanted a lasting memory of her mother’s cooking. I couldn’t think of a better way to remember her. The closing song was one I’d never heard sung at a funeral, but it was Mid’s favorite, “You Are My Sunshine.”
For Mary Lou, Jody and me, nothing could have been a more fitting tribute to the aunt who had brightened our lives for so many years.
Karen Kornmiller writes a weekly column published in The Logan Daily News. The views of this column may not necessarily reflect that of the newspaper.