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OPINION: My Great Aunt Becky’s place, a sanctuary in the storm



As I think of mothers this time of year, I can’t help but remember not only my mother, Betty, but also my Great Aunt Becky. She never had children but mothered many of her great-nieces and nephews.

Aunt Becky was my Grandma Laursen’s sister. She was married for about 30 years but never had children. She lived in an idyllic setting in southern American Fork. Trees and fields surrounded her home, and the railroad tracks ran about 200 yards from her house. Her home was a refuge for many. In some of her days of frustration raising her large, rambunctious family, Mom would load us up in her car and take us down to Aunt Becky’s.

The minute we arrived, we raced to find our special spaces in her yard. There was a huge chestnut tree where we would sit for hours and gather chestnuts to make necklaces, tiny villages, carved treasures and whatever else our minds dreamed up. We would gather hollyhocks that grew abundantly in her yard to make hollyhock dolls. We would wade in her irrigation ditch and look for toads or frogs that croaked incessantly. We would find her little pond filled with ice skaters and pretend they were warriors fighting each other in our miniature, make-believe war. The hours would fly by. 

Mom and Aunt Becky would sit on her front porch and talk about politics, books, neighbors, local events and families. I often wondered how they could talk for so long. I would hear them laugh at some of Art Linkletter’s funny stories or the latest Erma Bombeck book. They were both readers and enjoyed discussing their latest novel or newspaper story. Aunt Becky never did have a TV but spent many hours listening to the radio. She loved Edward R. Murrow as a newscaster and the wit and wisdom of Paul Harvey. Becky loved to do crossword puzzles and read the Deseret News. She was smart, funny and had a sarcastic wit. I grew to love her dearly.

We always left her place laden with fresh asparagus, rhubarb and whatever else was growing in her garden. She would gather eggs and give us a dozen or two on our way out. In the fall, there was always abundant fruit on her trees–peaches, pears and apples. She would sometimes give us a loaf of her fresh bread and home-churned butter. We left her home knowing we were loved and cared for. Mom left feeling nourished intellectually and physically. 

I wish everyone had an Aunt Becky. She left an indelible impression on me as a young person. To this day, I reminisce about the feeling of being enriched by Aunt Becky’s wisdom, culinary expertise and warm, loving demeanor.

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