With Aunt Lou in her last days of her life, my mind and soul is being flooded with fond memories of growing up with our large family of Massey’s. Aunt Lou and Aunt Peggy are the last of them and they’re both afflicted with dementia, not to mention their other serious health issues, so they’ll be no more stories from an eyewitness to our family’s history. We can only go by our memories, things they’ve told us, and what we make of all the stories we heard growing up.
I know most of us miss our “good ole days” but I truly do and I wish I could have lived during the days when our Massey family was “growing up”. I’m sure there were hardships, bad times, and upsetting memories but it was a simpler time and fun was made easily with what they did have – fishing poles, watering holes, farm animals and pets, and playfully torturing the youngest of the bunch.
I loved hearing the stories about Aunt Lou and Aunt Ginny hopping trains, running after one another on the wrap around porch of the home they grew up in, and swimming in the wooden water tower hanging on to dear life when trains would drain the tower and they couldn’t reach the ladder to get out. Although it was a bit dangerous, it all sounded like so much fun.
When I was growing up our big family spent lots of time together, almost every weekend in fact. We all lived within a mile or so, if not closer, of one another. Aunt Lou lived directly behind the little Kayton Theatre and every Saturday or Sunday all the aunts, uncles, cousins, and close friends gathered at Aunt Lou’s. We’d have an early dinner, about 2pm, and then the grown-ups would fork over a few dollars or so in order for all the kids to go to the movies, most of the time getting to enjoy a double feature! Their plan of course was to get the kids out of the house so as not to interrupt them during their poker game.
Once the kids were gone, the dining room table was set up as a makeshift poker table. Everyone chose their favorite seat, emptied their pockets and purses of dollar bills and all of their change onto the table where they planned to perch for the evening. Pretty much most games involved at least six players if not more. Those who weren’t lucky enough to make it to the table served as the “fetchers.” They would fetch the players something to drink, fetch them a snack, or possibly even play a hand for them when they had to take a potty break.
The poker games were a serious thing in our family. All of the Massey kids and their kids learned at a very young age how to play and more importantly, how to win. It was like a right of passage. Weekly poker games was a normal part of their life growing up. The patriarch of the clan, Wayne Massey, held big stakes poker games with some of the local politicians from their small town up in the holler but his wife, my grandmother Mamie, never played cards. She thought it was wasteful. It’s kind of funny to me that most of their the kids played though. There were six kids and all but one were females, and boy they sure were serious when they sat at that poker table. There were actually seven kids had but one, a female, passed away at the tender age of two from dysentery. I’m sure had she lived, she’d be right there with her sisters taking the men’s money!
I’m sad that we’re at the end of hearing about these stories first hand. Although we’ve heard them over and over, it never gets old. Hopefully, blogging about what I remember and what’s fresh from Aunt Lou before her recent rapidly failing health, I can somehow keep their wonderful stories alive for a while.