Remembering a very

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 28, 2006

special aunt

I can see her in my mind, a small, tidy figure standing on the front porch of an equally small and tidy home on Harper Lane in Crossville, Tennessee. The house’s storm door has a scrolled &uot;R, &uot; for &uot;Randolph,&uot; rendered in wrought iron to match the railings on that little concrete porch.

My aunt, Ada Wood Randolph, and her husband Spencer, lived there for many years. Every summer, she would be there on the porch, that impish, sweet smile spread across her face, dark eyes shining from behind her glasses, happy to see her little sister and her nieces visiting from Alabama.

She had a bevy of nieces and nephews – the Woods were a big family – and she seemed to love us all.

&uot;Well, h’it’s so good to see you’ns again,&uot; she’d say in that distinctive lilting mountain cadence, so different from our south Alabama accents. They didn’t say &uot;y’all&uot; in Crossville; the word was &uot;you’ns,&uot; which I found funny and endearing.

I was also absolutely fascinated by the fact my aunt’s house was the cleanest place, outside of a hospital perhaps, I had ever seen.

&uot;Now girls, be careful and don’t make a mess at your aunt Ada’s house,&uot; my mother would admonish us nervously before we left for our annual trip each summer.

Not that mom was a slob – she just enjoyed working outside more than she did the onerous chores of cooking and cleaning.

Aunt Ada, on the other hand, was the original Susie Homemaker.

&uot;She polishes the plant leaves every day,&uot; my oldest sister would note in an amazed whisper.

No dust bunnies under the bed, mildew in the bathroom or a single dirty dish in the sink for my aunt.

Yet if we had slipped up and &#8220made a mess,” I don't think she would have fussed about it but simply reassured us with a &#8220honey, now h'it's perfectly all rightŠ” and a piece of her latest made-from-scratch cake.

She made wonderful cakes, including a recipe made with fresh apples that tasted mighty good with a glass of milk or the coffee that never failed to be brewing at her house. Daddy always said those Woods were real &uot;coffee hounds.&uot;

She was the consummate hostess, fluttering around us to make sure we were all comfortable. If you didn’t watch it, she’d not only pour your cereal for you, she’d spoon the sugar on, too. Your cereal would end up almost as sweet as Aunt Ada.

We loved her country style green beans, and though Daddy planted the same kind she harvested from her big backyard garden, they never tasted the same.

Was it the Cumberland County soil or just Aunt Ada’s magic touch? Either way, those beans were delicious with the baked ham and fried apples she would serve us.

She kept cold bottles of Coca-Cola in the fridge for us. We’d pop them open with the wall-mounted opener in the kitchen and sip them, sitting on front porch in the comfortable old swing, enjoying a cool Cumberland County breeze.

After my uncle died, my aunt stayed on at the little house on Harper Lane, until her health, physical and mental, began to fail her. She moved in with family in Crossville. Finally, the Alzheimer’s that was robbing her of memory and judgment forced a move into a nursing home.

Last week, my aunt was laid to her final rest. She had suffered for several days in the hospital after falling and breaking her pelvis, her frail, 88-year-old body unable to fight off infection.

That’s not the way I choose to remember her, though. I still see that active, gentle-hearted, bright-eyed woman who lost three tiny baby boys of her own and loved her nieces and nephews as if we were her own.

She would have made a great mom. To me, she was the greatest aunt one could hope for.

Angie Long is Lifestyles reporter for The Greenville Advocate. She can be reached at 382-3111 ext. 132 or via email at