by Arbutus (Bell) Milholin
Everyone should have an aunt like Aunt Cora. A lady of many talents - midwife, wildlflower gardener, chrocheter, knitter, embroiderer, story teller, and keeper of magical secrets. She baked the best yellow cake from scratch with an inch of chocolate frosting (like fudge). She didn’t limit you to one piece.
I walked to church with her one cold Christmas Eve. The moon and stars were so bright and the snow sparkled like diamonds. As we passed the barn she told me that if I went to the barn at midnight the cows would be kneeling in honor of Jesus’ birth. I was never brave enough to check it out.
A shameful thing happened to me when I was about four. I developed a line of warts on the back of my left hand. A huge one and a long line of graduated sizes. I told her how I hated them. With her knowledge of magic she told me how to get rid of them. Now this was secret stuff! She advised - steal your mother’s dish cloth while she is using it. Go outside, rub it over the warts, bury it in the sand and never tell. This I did. There was company that night. What a hunt for that dish cloth that everyone had seen mother using. I was a shy little girl and no one suspected me. Guess what - the warts disappeared and I still have a scar where they were. Aunt Cora’s magic powers.
She made beautiful things, pillow cases, tableclothes, dresser scarves, dolies, caps and mittens. If you said anything was pretty, it was yours. No one ever went away without a gift. She filled my hope chest.
Aunt Cora split wood, carried water from the spring, built the fires - she loved using pitch pine. I remember sleeping upstairs with Waneta at the Tanner farm. She had bultl the breakfast fire and the smoke was coming up between the floor boards in little tendrils.
She taught Waneta to sew by and and Waneta made doll clothes for her dolls and mine.
Life wasn’t easy - she never had modern conveniences above electric lights. She lost a young son Phillip, age 8, and Waneta at eleven. She carried on with the pioneer spirit of her Curtis grandparents Ebeenzer and Mary Curtis.