Looking at the glowing Christmas tree cut from glass, I couldn’t help but think of love. Given to my mother decades ago by her sister, my Aunt Margie, the tinted green glass glistens with glitter. Slowly, the sparkly pieces flow inside the triangular glass, up and down the foot-high tree, their journey never-ending. The base, a sphere of white, coated in more glitter, begins the glow. Red, circular gems highlight the angular cuts of glass forming the tree’s branches. Sitting beside my favorite tree, its star, broken off years ago. Each year when I unpack the precious object, I vow to perch the star once again in its appropriate place, but somehow, the days slip by without the project completed.
“Your aunt gave me that.” Mom said.
Instantly, my heart became attached to the inanimate object. Chosen from my mother’s Christmas decorations at her death, Aunt Margie’s tree holds the most value. Besides my mom, no one directed my path more than her.
Born Margaret Priscilla McNutt on Monday, October 20, 1924, it was Leap Year. Calvin Coolidge was president. Although her entrance into life happened in Sugar Creek Township, located in Armstrong County, PA, the earthquake occurred in South Carolina. My aunt entered the world the same day as the Southern Appalachian Earthquake, covering 56,000 square miles from South Carolina to Tennessee. Learning the earth moved the day my aunt began her life journey seems appropriate. Aunt Margie moved mountains one hug at a time.
Describing the warmth Aunt Margie generated when she wrapped her arms around me, challenging. Her smell, a mixture of lotions and cooking spices, pepper her favorite one. Melting into her generous figure never got old. When she visited, I always sat close, she would sling her arm over my shoulders, nestling me into her side. Many life-changing chats occurred when we assumed the position. Always encouraging and uplifting, I miss the security of her arms most.
“God will never give you more than you can handle.” Aunt Margie said as we walked to the hospital room where my father lay. She stood beside me as I said goodbye, watching dad take his last breaths. Battling lung cancer, dad entered heaven surrounded by his family. As he left our world, Aunt Margie gave me the strength to keep going. Unbeknownst to me at the time, she knew pain more intimately than I was aware.
“I remember the night my dad told us that he was dying. Dean and I were picking lima beans to can. There were three long rows of beans. My dad came out to us walking with a cane. He told us to be good for our mother, and it wouldn’t be long before he would leave us. It was very hard to digest because he had never left us. He took his stroke on November 25, 1936.”
My mother was barely five years old when she lost her father, my aunt, almost twelve. When I asked my mom about grandpa, her reply was the same. “He died when I was little. I didn’t know him.” But my aunt did.
“My father drove a car (I think it was a Model T). Anyway, I would watch for him coming home and would meet him in front of the house. He would stop and pick me up, and I got to ride down the driveway with him. He always brought something home in his lunch; I got to eat it. It was wonderful!”
Aunt Margie’s experience with her father was like mine. Each night Dad came home from his job as a truck driver repeated itself. He paid me a quarter to sweep out the cab. Then we went to my uncle’s store a mile from our house. I could buy whatever I wanted with my hard-earned money. Often, candy cigarettes were my choice. Dad smoked, I imitated him.
My aunt understood me in ways no one else did.
Married to Harry Mead Boltz on June 20,1942 in the small town of Chicora, PA, they had five children. Nancy Lea died in infancy, a cousin I never met. In addition, both parents and her siblings, James, Alex (Dean), and Viola, were living in heaven. On the day she walked me to my father’s deathbed, Aunt Margie understood my pain. What my aunt taught me to do, continue to live.
Housewife, the career listed for Aunt Margie in “Descendants of John McNutt” written by her daughter-in-law, Cinda, doesn’t quite capture the essence of Margaret. She loved her family, always putting them first. Walking into her home was one of the safest places on earth for me and so many people whose lives she impacted. Always greeted with a hug, Aunt Margie’s robust shape enfolded you completely. No one ever held me the way she did, no matter what my age. Active in politics and church, she negotiated complex topics with grace. Loving everyone, no matter which side of the aisle they chose. Judge of Elections in Sugar Creek Township, Aunt Margie never did tell me how she voted. But I do know the Lord came first, attending church with her often.
“You never know what will happen.”
Sitting on Aunt Margie’s front porch, I heard the words often from her lips. Life change occurred when I spent a vacation with her. In my early thirties, life’s struggles were winning the battle. Every night, we sat on her porch and talked. Her children came and went as we enjoyed our evenings together, just the two of us. As I poured my heartache out to her, hopeless, she gave me hope. And Aunt Margie always pointed upward when she did. My mother and she shared a favorite Psalm. Both women requested the words read at their funerals:
“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.”
“Well, I guess it’s time to go.” Aunt Margie said.
After their spouses moved to heaven, mom and Aunt Margie became closer than ever. One of the jobs they shared, taking care of two elderly women with dementia. Every night, one or the other would spend the night with them. Aunt Margie, living over an hour away, would come to stay with mom and me during her shifts. Some of our happiest moments together occurred in the hours before 9:00 p.m. when she slept elsewhere. Florida Rummy and Phase 10 were the card games of choice. Fans of “The Golden Girls,” the pair nicknamed me Blanche because I loved to talk about sex. The topic wasn’t a favorite of theirs, which only made me talk about it more. When I miss them, I think of them around the card table, playing one more hand.
“Ah, you’ll make it. You find a way.”
I wonder if Aunt Margie ever tired of saying the same things to me. When we play the next hand of cards in heaven, I’ll ask her. In the meantime, as I continue my journey on earth, I understand a little bit more of what those eight words meant.
Defining anxiety is new to me, more importantly, my anxiety and how it manifests. Anxiety happens because I’m either focused on the possibility of a potential “nightmare” situation in the future or worried a past traumatic event will happen again. Anxiety robs me of the present. Aunt Margie’s eight-word statement was her way of bringing me back into the “here and now.” Her confidence in my ability to survive surprised me, but I’m beginning to understand. When she said those words, I couldn’t imagine life without her. But she was right, I’ve made it. I did find a way.
Aunt Margie’s life inspires me. Only after her death did I begin to understand how difficult her journey on earth was. Sharing her birthday with an earthquake seems prophetic. She experienced ground-shaking events time and again in her life. Yet, she persevered, always finding a way. From losing her father at an early age to experiencing the loss of a child to caring for the love of her life through Alzheimer’s, she never stopped finding a way. Mom and Aunt Margie only talked of such things when asked. Complaining wasn’t something they did. No, they spent their lives loving the people God gave them, always and forever.
Glow, beautiful, luminous tree, glow. From your lights shines the light of heaven as Aunt Margie’s spirit lives on in all who knew her. The box is in mint condition, waiting to nestle my favorite Christmas tree in its midst. Maybe next year, I’ll find glue to hold the fragile star in place. Underneath the warm hue, I’ll deal another hand of Florida Rummy, remembering the remarkable woman who taught me the most important lesson of all. Love
1 thought on “Within the Tree’s Glow”
Well, after I am done sobbing from your loving words, I want to thank you . That was a beautiful blog dedicated to “Aunt Margie”. Your mother and mine left us with so much advice and love, we were so blessed! I loved them both so much and always will think of them fondly. It was such a gift from God that we landed in this family with such special people.