Aunt Bea passed away peacefully at the home of her daughter and son-in on Monday. She was ninety-six years old.
Bea had many names. Her given name was Lydia. She was called Lottie Bell by many, which was shortened to Bea. Unable to pronounce her name, her first grand-daughter began to call her Mudgie. It stuck. All three of her grandchildren called her Mudgie.
I have a theory that the number of nicknames one has seems to be directly proportionate to how much one is loved.
Bea was a feature of my childhood. She lived with her mother–my Granny Cooper–on the mill hill in Enoree. They had their own home, a four room mill house near the Enoree School. But they could likely as not be found at Nanny and Papa’s old big house–one of the biggest houses on the mill hill. Papa was entitled to the big house because he was the night superintendent at the mill.
But there were curious things about Bea.
Mind you, I am looking at things through the eyes of a very naive little girl growing up in the Sixties. Nothing bad had ever happened or ever would.
Aunt Bea had no husband. I suppose at various times my innocent mind partitioned her off as a widow or even a spinster, never mind how she came to have a daughter and grandchildren. So it was a shocker to find out that Bea had been married and divorced. Nobody we knew of in Enoree except scandalous Aunt Jennny had been divorced. People whispered about folks who got divorces. It just wasn’t done. There certainly was plenty to whisper about Jenny, but Bea was just Bea. No whispering required.
A second curious thing about Bea was that she didn’t drive. She walked to work, walked to Nanny and Papa’s. Wherever else she needed to go, there were always relatives and friends to take her. A good many women in the Sixties did not drive. Nanny didn’t, but I remember Papa Claude teaching her…or trying to, and she eventually got a driver’s license. I don’t know if Bea ever did.
Bea and Papa Claude shared a special friendship, even after Nanny died. Bea was his sister by marriage but also by the heart. Papa liked puzzles and trickery of all kinds, but he was a master of practical jokes. One time he got a mail-order motion activated recording that he hid under the toilet for Bea. it said something like, “I SSSEEEEEE YOUUUUUUUUUU,” in a man’s deep voice. My little old Papa giggled for days about that.
If Papa Claude giggled, Bea laughed. Not a loud, crazy laugh, not a dainty little laugh. A just right laugh. She laughed a lot. Shortly after mama got the call about her death, in the quiet of her home with her mind turned to a simple task, mama heard Bea’s laughter.
Bea stayed healthy and vibrant well into her senior years. I reckon all of that walking all over the mill hill kept her slender and strong. She worked long days in the cotton mill into her seventies.
Keep on laughing Bea/Lottie Belle/Mudgie. We’ll see you again someday over yonder.