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by Lollie
Rated: E · Other · Family · #1837805
Early family memories
I was brought home from Grady Memorial in Atlanta, Georgia in 1955 to our family home in DeKalb County, on Rockbridge Road where the Pine Lake Baptist Church now stands. It was the home of my grandmother and my mother's two younger sisters--Bennett, three years younger than my mother and Lynne, also known as "Pete," who was two years younger than Bennett.

"Pete" became my aunt's nickname after a childhood conversation between my Aunt Bennett and her parents before her new baby sister arrived. There had been some thought during my grandmother's pregnancy that she might have twins. When someone had asked my aunt what she would like to call the baby, she responded "Pete." When further pressed for what she would name them if there were two babies, she had, with all the logic of a two-year old, said, "Pete, and two-Pete." The exchange was never forgotten and the nickname was sealed forever throughout my Aunt Pete's life.

My brother and I learned to call our grandmother "Lollie" at our aunt's coaxing. They urged us to call her by the name she had been known for in childhood. Lollie was named Laura after her own mother and my becoming her namesake made the third generation of Lauras in the family.

My mother returned home from a failed marriage at 20 still pregnant with me, bringing along my older brother, who had been born just a few days short of a year before me. Lollie became a second mother to us. She had been as happy for my mother to come back home and have a safe haven to raise her children as my mother was for us to be there. My grandmother was never more happy than in a house filled with family, especially babies and small children, and the income my mother could bring into the household would be appreciated, since my grandfather had died recently from a stroke while on the road selling insurance. My grandmother had been left as the head of a household that included herself and my mother's two younger sisters, both who hadn't yet finished high school.

We never were to be made to feel that we weren't supposed to have been there. In this nest of women, my brother and I were showered with affection. Lollie was quite happy in the role of homemaker and mother. She had spent the better part of her life nurturing. She was the youngest of her own childhood clan, a family of seven children with only one boy, and she had married quite late in life for the time -- after turning 30 -- which was considered old maid in that generation. She had spent many years of her early adulthood taking care of her own mother and father through illnesses and into their later years before she finally married and raised a family of her own. She would have been in her late fifties when my mother, my brother and I came home to begin our life together with her.

Mom's middle sister, Bennett, was a well-recognized member of the Clarkston High Girl's Basketball team. One of my earliest memories is a vague one of seeing her silky basketball uniform wadded up on the top of a heap of clothes on a chest of drawers housed in the curtain-covered nook of a make-shift closet. I remember how shiny the green and gold sateen fabric looked, how cool it felt.

Aunt Bennett graduated and moved away so soon after our arrival that I can't remember her as an integral part of our daily lives, but she remained nearby throughout her entire life and continued to be a very important and influential person in our family. Aunt Pete, however, lived right under the same roof for several more years and was our regular babysitter, one who often strolled us about the neighborhood. She came in and out of the house between unofficial, social episodes and while there she would inevitably put her hair in pin curls only to take it down soon thereafter. She was so well practiced at "doing her hair" that it took a place of reverence in my mother's memory and was often commented on in her conversations over the years. My mother was in awe of her sister's abilities at hairstyling, a skill she didn't share, and she was struck by how Pete could do a row of neatly crisscrossed, bobbie-pinned curls without the use of a mirror.

With her hair having been dried and brushed out, Aunt Pete would be ready to socialize and along we went with her, visiting Hogan's store right next door for an R.C. Cola from his bright red, Coca-Cola cooler or candy from the glass-fronted case directly under his cash register. We went so many times to the beach house and lake over those years that we felt we were among her teenage contemporaries, so much so that when "American Graffiti" came out in the movie theaters in the 1970s, my brother reflected, "I know I'm not from that generation, but somehow it really seems like I grew up then." There was an often-told story of my brother, who as just a toddler, would hold onto the juke box housed at the lake's beach house for balance and rock back and forth to the beat of "Sixteen Tons" by Tennessee Ernie Ford, while my aunt's friends popped additional nickles into the box in order to prolong his chubby-legged performance.

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