Aunt Florence’s Legacy

Great Aunt Florence–Grandpa’s sister. Born in 1891, Great Aunt Florence was already “old” when I was born. She never married. She loved children, but after only one year of teaching she realized her nerves couldn’t handle it. Instead, she moved to Chicago and sold books. Not just any books, The How and Why Library for children. Aunt Florence was one of the first women hired to walk the streets of Chicago knocking on doors to sell children’s books to stay-at-home moms.

Whenever Aunt Florence came for a visit, she tried to sell our whole town these “nuggets of joy and learning” as she called them. Even though my father seemed annoyed with her walking “our” streets with her books, he also shared her passion for education. He became her first customer in Wellsboro.

I looked forward to her visits. She read non-stop and with an avid audience, she read to me with great enthusiasm. Aunt Florence possessed a very soft voice–so soft I had to strain to hear her. The emotion that she put into every character brought each one jumping off the pages. The grandmother who Heidi visited each time she took the goats out with Peter–I could see that poor grandmother in her bed. Bob White and his family of quails running across the field to escape the fox produced a huge lump in my throat every time.

My first biographies–George Washington, Abe Lincoln, George Washington Carver–came from her. But when she read Florence Nightingale, I thought that nurse must have been the most gracious and kind woman in the whole world. Aunt Florence brought Florence Nightingale to life for me. She taught me the lines that Longfellow penned about her:

Lo! in that hour of misery
A lady with a lamp I see
Pass through the glimmering gloom,
And flit from room to room.

Certain books like Ben Hur brought excitement to her trembling voice. Aunt Florence introduced me to Nancy Drew and Spin and Marty. Sometimes we shared in the reading and other times she left the book for me to read so we could discuss it on her next visit.

She brought my first prayer book to me, full of beautiful pictures. Her voice softened and even sparkled a bit when she read these prayers.  Sometimes after reading a prayer, Aunt Florence would close her eyes for a while. Later, I pretended I was Aunt Florence. I closed my eyes and tried to see what she saw. At age 23, I met Jesus and knew what Aunt Florence saw.

I tried to mirror her reading style with my own children. I know I failed miserably. My voice was never that soft and exciting. But I like to think that a little bit of Aunt Florence came through and was evidenced by my little ones so that Aunt Florence’s legacy will never pass away.

Categories Legacy Writing Prompts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Posted on September 4, 2012

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