A tribute to my aunt……..
Kathryn Tucker Windham, my great aunt, died recently. In the past few weeks, many have written about her and various parts of her life as a reporter, photographer, an author, playwright, actor and most of all a storyteller. She did love to tell stories and was exceptionally good at it, having been trained by the best, her father.
People have been so kind to share their wonderful memories of her storytelling and the times she shared with them in all types of venues promoting that almost lost talent, but Kathryn…
The Kathryn I remember is more than a storyteller, and just as wonderful. One of my vivid childhood memories was meeting at the church on the Bragg Highway to be joyfully handed over to my aunt and her younger daughter, my cousin Dilcy, for a week of fun and adventure at their home in Selma. During these many summer visits, we would do things like go cane pole fishing, visit the USO to dance with the sailors and go swimming at the YMCA. There were frog houses to build and decorate in the back yard, trails to explore, and neighbors to ride bikes with in the late afternoon just before we got our Mason jars to catch fireflies. She even let me type on her typewriter! Treats were baked in the kitchen and peas were shelled at 2004 Royal Street…what summer fun it was.
Years passed,lives got busy and we had fewer face to face visits; but we did stay in touch. Handwritten letters galore and phone calls when the time was right kept us in touch with what really mattered – our relationship. I remember the time I called her in a panic because I had accidentally washed my ink pen in my favorite shirt. She knew how to get the ink out by using heavy duty hairspray. She saved the day for me. When our third child was born and we called to tell her she had a namesake, she said, “Pinch her so I can hear her cry!”
It was during these summer visits, letters and calls that she imparted to me the importance of people – all different kinds of people. “God made us all, and He has a plan for each person’s life”, she told me, “and their plan will fit like a puzzle piece with someone else’s plan and who knows what great things will be accomplished.” Her total acceptance of others is what I will remember most about her. As well as the way she ended each one of our phone calls – “Give your husband a big hug when he gets home, and tell him you love him.” I do.
So while others are reminiscing about this or that story she told and the event in which Kathryn participated and excelled, I am remembering the long relaxed phone calls hearing stories about my grandmother (her sister), catching up on family news, hearing all the behind the scenes stories that took place at the events she attended and knowing that there was one loving bundle of grace on the other end of the line. That is the Kathryn Tucker Windham I will remember.