Miryam Howard: “You really ought to give Iowa a try”(Music Man, anyone?)

Summer with Aunt Halley

by Miryam Meier-Howard

Aunt Halley always had butterscotch candies in her apron pocket when I would come to visit. I was about ten when I first spent a whole summer on her farm in Iowa. People called me shy, but Aunt Halley said I was just lonely and was a thinker. She saw into my soul. She was a sturdy woman, not given to delicate features, over 6 feet tall and as wide as a wood stove. She could catch a snake with her bare hands and chop off it’s head with a butcher knife. Aunt Halley had a big garden that was her pride, with fruit trees all around and she pumped all her water from a well. The outhouse gave me the creeps, but for Aunt Halley, just thinking of doing your business indoors was unheard of. She taught me how to can fresh vegetables and bake a rhubarb pie, but mostly she seemed to enjoy my company.

My mother had little time for country life, instead chose to live in New Albin. She seemed to love going out and getting all dressed up. When I caught a whiff of her violet perfume and saw her fur wrap laying out, I knew an admirer would soon be knocking at our door. Aunt Halley said momma was frail and sickly, but as I grew older I saw her differently.

The summers with Aunt Halley turned out to be some of my fondest memories. By the end of my stay, I made every excuse to stay longer, but none of my pleading worked the miracle I needed. Aunt Halley said I must go to school and learn a profession because the world was changing. I resorted to writing letters and she would always write me back, telling me how good the pickles were that we put up, or if the pond was frozen.

I graduated and moved to Washington DC for a clerical job at the embassy. The last letter I got from Aunt Halley came one spring…

She wrote, “It’s garden time again, oh how I wish you were here.”

12 thoughts on “Miryam Howard: “You really ought to give Iowa a try”(Music Man, anyone?)

  1. Parisianne Modert says:

    “Summer With Aunt Halley” serves us as last entry with a set of photo-memories on the pages of a sacred album of the sweetest and dearest connections to moments of Miryam’s youth. The journey she allows us is sentimental, visually vivid as voyeurs to her Aunt Halley’s country strength of character and grace of welcoming. I am enchanted by this taste of a butterscotch reminisce.

    • Miryam says:

      Thanks for your comments. I’m so glad you enjoyed this little clip of life. I met Aunt Halley only once when my mother took me on a train trip to visit her family. The depictions I wrote of are all true to my remembrance, however, it was my mother who had the relationship with her. The girl in this story is my sweet mother who is now in her 90’s.

      • Parisianne Modert says:

        Ah, thank you and my apologies to your mother as well. Your writing is as fresh and natural as a country morning of smiling faces in sync with a slow-pace sunrise, chirping birds and dew sparkling in the meadow.

  2. Mac Eagan says:

    Fantastic work, Miryam. I really enjoyed how you essentially avoided the use of the theme word until the very end but developed the theme idea all the way through – “always” had butterscotch candies (a repeated occurrence), the “first” summer (indicating more to come), the “summers” (plural) with Aunt Halley (giving us the more we knew were coming).


    – Mac

    • Miryam says:

      Oh thanks Mac! Your comments sure gave me a boost! Sometimes I don’t think I have a clue as to what I’m writing!

  3. Donna Dabney says:

    I can see that this fits your mother and it’s a wonderful picture painted with words. I can see her beautiful face filled with wonder as she relished every moment with her auntie. Thanks for sharing my friend.

  4. Diane Cresswell says:

    Maryam I apologize for not seeing this sooner. Working at a wine competition slowed me down in responding sooner. Now having time to read this I am feeling as if I was back at my own Grandparents’ farm. I love your stories for they carry a wonderful sense of timelessness, of being connected to a time that has been a bit lost. You do a beautiful job in bringing that alive. So good to read your stories again.

    • Miryam says:

      Hi Diane! I am grateful that you enjoyed this little snapshot of life…sometimes I compare myself to others and feel a bit simple-minded in my style. Your feedback helps me to accept who I am. Todah Rabah!!!

  5. Tiffany V says:

    I kinda like sneaking up after all the dust has settled, and I can engage the story without “help”, and Mac called it. You kept that framework teasingly, til you gave it up at the end with the full monty of the words we wanted. That said, I believe this is the last submission, and you sent us off beautifully. Thank you.

    • Miryam says:

      Thanks so much for your kind words Tiffany. I appreciate your time in reading this post, even after the bell has rung!

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