My mother’s first sister was called Auntie Annie

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Auntie Annie was the first of our maternal uncles and, as I like to tell
you, she was my first aunt. She married my father, my mother’s brother, and
she had three children with him. She was a tall, striking woman, and her
husband was short, small, and dapper. I was very young when my father was
born and was not told about his younger brother until the day of his birth.
I was then four and a half years old. I didn’t know my father existed beyond
my mother’s stories of a brother who got his name because he was not tall
enough to hold the baby. She told me that her youngest brother had gotten his
name because “he was born too early” or some such thing. She told me he
would have been called too early if he had been born two years earlier, or
even one year later. I don’t remember her telling me this, but it was
obviously a fact. I can’t imagine how my grandmother felt about it. She was
never able to hide her feelings. She would say, “Annie, you have such a
little family, don’t you wish you had a brother of your own?” And I would
answer, “Yes, Auntie, I do.”

But we were happy, we girls. In the midst of life’s difficulties we were
always happy. The life of a spinster is always a happy one.

The trouble began when my father left my mother to marry Auntie Annie, and
Auntie Annie had brought a baby into the world. This was our first brother,
and our mother’s first sister.

But we were happy, we girls. In the midst of life’s difficulties we were
always happy. The life of a spinster is always a happy one.

Annie’s brother was born on February 2, 1918. The baby had a large head and
a long neck. When Auntie Annie brought him home as her first baby, he was
weighting in at two pounds, seven ounces. Auntie Annie said his real name was
Eugene, but we knew him as Uncle Eugene. When she named him Eugene, she told
me the baby had a “real cute dimple in the center of the top of his head.”
When he was four months old, he took an interest in our lives. It was at our
house that he learned to speak. It was during that first year of his life that
he went off to school, first as a boarder and then as a full-time student.

As a student, he was known by the other children as “Uncle Eddie.” He was
one of the boys. He was our little brother. The boys would come to our house
and they would ask me, “Where is your brother Uncle Eddie?” I would reply,
“He doesn’t live with us any more.” There were a few boys who did live with
us, but they were all quiet and stayed home most of the time. I did not know
that Eugene was the first of his kind to do that. At that time, it was widely
believed that all boys should go to school, but Eugene, it appeared, was
different. He went off to school and, in fact, he did quite well, getting
advanced standing. But he never went to school unless he wanted to. He would
say, “I’m going out and will be back in a few minutes. I’m tired of
talking.” Well, he was always tired of talking. You see, he was never the
“talker.” Uncle Eddie was the talker. He would speak in all sorts of different
words, and he would talk a big game. His talk was loud and it was loudest of
all when he was excited. Once I was out with my family and saw him go up to
this big, blond boy, the class president, and say something to him. I asked
my father what had happened, and he said he just said it. I was very angry
when I found out that Eugene was the kind of boy who bragged and talked a
big game. Of course, every child has a few wild and wild ways, but Eugene
was not like that. He was quiet, kind, and nice to everyone.

Now, I am not going to try to say that Eugene did not deserve to go to
school and complete his education. He deserved it more than any of the boys
did. He deserved it from his parents. He was a good and patient child. He
would never be late. He was always ready to speak to you at the time you
chided him. He never teased you. He never had a mean bone in his body.

Eugene was a quiet child. His personality was very quiet. He took interest
only in things he liked. When he entered school, he was almost six years old,
and he did not remember anything at all. He did not know how to read and was
always at a “bit behind”. I, myself, was almost in the same class as Eugene.
He did not remember anything about me until we went to the same house all of
a sudden and had a “little talk.” He never liked to be teased. He did not
think it funny. He was always nice and quiet. He never talked about himself.
I never heard him talk about himself. He was a happy boy.

But he was kind and had a good heart. He would always do what was right.
I think he looked down on those who were mean. Sometimes, he said, “Those two
people, they should have known better.” But it bothered him not to be able
to say that. And he was right. He did know better, for I am sure he would
have done just what he did before he was so young. But he was not so smart.
He got out of school and never went back. He joined the navy when he was 14
and served for a few years. He was never seen nor heard from again, and he
did not come home. He would have been only a year older than I am now,
but he was only five years older than I am.

I do not know if my father knew about Eugene at the time he was married to
Annie or not. I know he did not know what had happened to the boy. He thought
little Eugene was just too young to be married.

Annie’s brother Eugene was my husband’s name for when we became husband and
wife.

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