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Aunt Maude by Mary Bartholomaus

Someone who later became very important to me came to live with us when I was a small child. Our family, that is, my sister Jackie, my brother Bill, my mother and father and I lived in a small rented house in Sauk Centre, Minnesota. We called this the Daniel's; House, aptly named for the owner. We had two bedrooms and a sort of storage room which served as a bedroom for two of us children. One other thing about this house was that the foundation was made of many colored large stones. This seemed so wonderful to me.

One day there was a knock at the door. My big sister Jackie answered. An older lady that we had seen at church was standing there and asked to see Mrs. Couch, our mother From that day forward Maude C. Davis lived with us until her death several years later. To us she was known as Aunt Maude. Only when she taught a one room schoolhouse in northern Minnesota, did she only spend her vacations at home with us. Otherwise her home was with us.

She became a member of our family when she had no means to support herself even though she was a university graduate. She had not worked as a teacher because she took care of her mother for many years during a long illness. After her mother died, her brothers came to the funeral and shortly thereafter sold the house and put their sister out on the street. This was during the depression and jobs were scarce.

Later on she got a job teaching at the one room schoolhouse. It was in a nearby town and one day I did visit the school. I found it very confusing. I listened to everyone's instructions. In order to excel, kids had to start their learning process that way.

During the time that she lived with us she was a significant influence on our lives. What I liked most was that she read children's classic books to us, a little each day. I'm certain that is what started our long interest in reading. One thing that was sometimes hard for me to accept is that she had the authority of a second mother.

At some point during my youth, she put the down payment on a larger house which had three bedrooms and a bath. Mom and Dad made all the monthly payments. This house was to go to my parents upon her death. Aunt Maude and I had one bed in one of the bedrooms. I tried to go to sleep before she did because she snored. Sometimes I had to give her a little nudge to wake her up so that I could go to sleep.

One summer when I was about 10 years old, Aunt Maude decided to take me to Minneapolis to visit her brother, Earl Davis. It was exciting to be chosen for this special event. When we were there she became my surrogate mother. She gave me attention that I was not used to but liked because it made me feel special. My clothes and my hair were given close attention. She combed my hair each morning usually forming it into sausage curls. Her brother asked me to call him Bid Daddy and even at that young age, I had an uneasy feeling that his remarks and actions were somehow wrong. After her death my father told me that Aunt Maude had such concern about his behavior that she had a conversation with him and watched closely when he was in my presence.

One day we got word that she had died in Hill City, Minnesota, where she taught school. Aunt Maude had told my parents that if she should die when she was teaching away from home, that they were to get her safety deposit box in Hill City before her brothers were notified of her death. Mom and Dad did not do this. She was sent home to Sauk Centre for her funeral and burial. My parents called her brothers to inform them of her death and the funeral arrangements. They came to Sauk Centre by way of Hill City and removed all her papers and other personal effects before coming to the funeral.

A handwritten will was found in her trunk in the attic in Sauk Centre leaving the house to my parents. Since the will was not witnessed, the brothers disregarded her instructions. This was consistent with their lifelong behavior. They gave us a short time to get out of the house and find another place to live. Our folks were disappointed but not angry. History does have a way of repeating itself.

What I remember most however, is having this wonderful, loving person in my young life.

Originally Posted (Jul 02, 2002)


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