On Saturday mornings I used to sit around the kitchen table with my Aunt Vera Dennis, searching for hidden treasure. We weren’t looking for gold or silver; we weren’t looking for diamonds or rubies. We were looking for bargains in the newspaper. It was the Depression. We lived in Greer County, Oklahoma, and we had more time than money.
I was six then, and the year I spent with Aunt Vera remains one of the most important times of my life. She taught me many things. She taught me how to sew and cook and iron, how to garden and embroider. I fed the chickens and separated the milk. I learned the meaning of hard work, but I loved the responsibility Aunt Vera gave me. I loved every minute of it.
I remember one Saturday in particular. She was planning to make me a dress that called for three yards of dimity, a nice type of cotton that you don’t see much of nowadays. After combing through the paper, we headed to the stores in Mangum, where I found a pattern with a sash and smocking and Aunt Vera found the best deal on dimity. She looked at the pattern, which called for three yards of cloth, and then she looked at me, and she said, “We can make do with two.”
I could tell you poor stories all day long, stories about how hard it was growing up in those times, but that’s not really what I remember. I remember feeling rich. I remember laughing. I remember learning. People live and grow through difficult periods because they learn from each other. Aunt Vera realized I could do a lot of things, and she gave me the encouragement and confidence to do them well. Because of her, I always knew how to make the best of a situation. I knew how to do more with less. I knew how to use two yards of dimity when the pattern called for three.