magpie 26

Author: angiem, 08 05th, 2010

When my Tante Marie’s husband died, she had him buried in the garden across the dirt road from her house.  Every morning, while the valley between the two mountains was still covered by a low mist, she would put on her thick coat, grab a few garden tools and make her way over.  Toward the end of that first summer without him, my sister and I were the only ones left to keep her company, the other cousins already returned to their jobs and school.

Waking up in the high bed that her husband had built, under layers of linen quilts and silver-threaded woven rugs, was always a delicious feeling. The room would be warm, on the table in front of the wood stove thick slices of bread, a pot of honey and one of butter, and a pitcher of milk awaited our hungry mouths.  We would eat, create a fantasy land of play underneath the bed, and when the mist lifted outside the thick walls of the mud hut, slide our feet in our shoes and run out, careful to close the door behind us, ever mindful of Tante’s warning of wolves and bears coming down the mountain side that was basically in her back yard.

We didn’t like going to the garden across the way.  Tante Marie had a habit of laying her body atop the mound of earth that covered her dead husband and crying out, demanding to know why he left her.  Sometimes she pulled at her hair, but mostly she just cried until she was spent. If she happened to see my sister and me there, peering out from behind one of the mulberry trees, she’d rouse herself, grab her watering can and call to us to fetch some water from the already filled well bucket, and bring it to her.  For the next several hours we’d work silently together, weeding, watering, gathering the onions, the radishes, the garlic, and whatever else was ripe enough to harvest for the following day’s market.

At midday when the sun would beat down harshly on her widow black skirts, we would stop our work and she would take us to the river where we were allowed to wade in and play, and even go across the man-made bridge to the other side.  She would watch us and hum a tune of mourning, a tune as old as the mountains themselves, before she remembered that we were growing children and must have something to eat.

That summer, the first summer that we had met our Tante, ended one evening in early September.  The light was already changing when our parents showed up to take us home.  As we started on our way, Tante Marie and her fragrant garden grew smaller and smaller, and although I had worried of what would happen to her during the cold winter months without her garden and without her husband, when Spring returned and we arrived, I learned that life and hope and love go on.
Sorry, this one’s non-fiction. For more tales please visit Magpie Tales.


49 Responses to “magpie 26”

  1. angela dunn Says:

    I love it,coming from a croatian family I so understand your Tante, the weeping on the grave and the working in the garden

  2. Diane Says:

    You temptress! You totally had me sucked in that this was real. Love your descriptions. Makes me feel like I am there with you. :O)

  3. Patience ray Says:

    so sad and heartfelt. You really did a wonderful job portraying this woman and her pain. I loved “her widow black skirts.” great line and fab magpie.

  4. Aoife.Troxel Says:

    It may be non-fiction, but it’s still a wonderful story. It has a romance of landscape and description that is a great accompaniment to a family memory.

  5. suz Says:

    I loved have captured the innocent curiosity and bewilderment of children strugggling to comprehend an older generations handling of grief…big order..but you kept the child all the way through this story..and you stirred very well the image of this Tante that the children took with them…Swedish I presume?
    Did you ever go back?

  6. Jingle Says:

    a real life story,
    what a fine childhood tale.
    it could be scary to deal with death…
    Glad that life and hope go on in the end and the garden does survive yet smaller…

    lovely writing!

  7. pamela Says:

    Beautiful remembrance, Angie.

  8. Kathe W. Says:

    memories from a child…more please!

  9. Krunal Says:

    beautiful, poignant

  10. Helen Says:

    Growing up my best friend had a Tante Helga … your beautiful Magpie reminded me of both.

  11. Weasel Says:

    Beautifully written magpie!


  12. Becky Ramsey Says:

    Oh this is beautiful!
    I can smell the bread and honey, and see your Tante weeping on the ground.
    Thank you, Angie! This touches me!

  13. Fireblossom Says:

    So rich, melancholy, and somehow sweet at the same time.

    I can almost taste that bread with butter and honey!

  14. Stafford Says:

    Why sorry? This was a wonderful child’s eye view of what may be a passing attitude to widowhood, with the warmth of the ‘mud hut’ and all it contained for us to enjoy! No need for an apology here!

  15. Mary Moon Says:

    Your words grab my heart and won’t let them go.

  16. Susan Tiner Says:

    Know I see why La Belette Rouge told me about you when I told her I wanted to meet other bloggers who write memoir. Very nice story!

  17. Susan Says:

    Vivid & well-written, Angie. xx

  18. Tumblewords Says:

    Nice piece - well painted!

  19. Susan Tiner Says:

    Oops. I meant now I see why.

    Thanks for your lovely comment on my blog.

    The image of your Tante Marie weeping is one I will remember.

  20. Bunny Says:

    beautifully written heartfelt story. What happens when one loses their spouse, how can you go on???how heartbreaking yet you make it all so beautiful.

  21. Julie Says:

    Dear Angie
    Your stories real or otherwise always weave their same magic on me… descriptions that take me into the world you are sharing and light up images in my mind..

    You excel at your craft my friend… Hope you are well and have a fabulous weekend.. xxxx Julie

  22. Ruth Says:

    beautiful. perfect evening read.

  23. ninotaziz Says:

    Dear Angie,

    I am so glad I arrived here to discover your lovely website. Your stories (fiction/non-fiction) just carries you through the journey to unknown lands and the lives of strangers - making it part of our daily lives.


  24. brian Says:

    actually i love that it is non fiction. mine is as well and along a very similar vein…nicely told…and yes they do go on…

  25. Lyn Says:

    Non fiction, you say…Imagine living the life of a fairy tale…lucky you!! Enchanting…

  26. La Belette Rouge Says:

    It reads as REAL. Absolutely beautiful. You have such a gift!

  27. Mwa Says:

    I love it. Please do more non-fiction!

  28. Jim Swindle Says:

    Sweet and sad memories. True stories are the best.

  29. Francesca Says:

    Learning about hope is such an important lesson for a child. I like your stories from your childhood.

  30. brigid Says:

    Beautiful tale, life and death imagery tied up with the seasons, great Magpie.

  31. Susan Deborah Says:

    Angie, there is so much soulfulness in your writing. You almost recreate, through words, the entire scene and then we are left hanging between the reality and the imagined.

    I love the way your stories have an episode coloured with memories and emotions.

    In absolute admiration of your creation.

    Joy always,

  32. sw Says:

    Beautifully done. Thank you for sharing this poignant memory.

  33. Christie Says:

    Your memories of your Tante are so beautiful.
    I am in awe of your writing.

  34. krista Says:

    i am in love with the way your words string together.

  35. Chrissy Says:

    Wow I felt like I had traveled and slept where you slept, and tasted what you tasted and watched in bewildered helplessness right along with you! Thanks for the travels and the living and grieving you shared! Beautiful!

  36. Elizabeth Says:

    Beautiful story told through a child’s eyes. It is a painting, but certainly not a still life. The voice you maintain throughout, is that clear bell of the child, filled with awe and questions.


  37. Janice Says:

    A beautiful and touching tribute to Tante Marie…

  38. Mary-Laure Says:

    How very, very moving…

  39. jane jones Says:

    Dear Angie: This excellently written short story is rich with nostalgic memories of a certain time in a child’s history. The vivid recall of the “Tante” crying on her dead husband’s gravesite mound is a very dramatic and visually indelible a memory. As are the “pot of honey” while playing make-believe with her sister under the bed. Thanks for these wonderful images! No reality here at all? Pure fiction? How creative you are Angie!

  40. Ava Says:

    Hey darlin’! Missed your stories! They are my favorite. Better than anything else I read.

  41. Englishvers Says:

    So touching with lashings of sentiment with bitter sweet notes.
    In memory of a loved one - Tante Marie…. The lady warmly hopes you are in good form. X

  42. Felicitas Says:

    What a beautiful tale - sad as real life often is but hopeful, as well.

  43. Carrie Burtt Says:

    Angie I truly enjoyed your sweet and beautiful story of Tante Marie. It captivated me from the first sentence! Inspiring writing! :-)

  44. ~T~ Says:

    Beautifully written memory!

  45. Sj Says:

    miss angie…where in the world have you been?? I was so glad to see you pop up on my blog today!

  46. laura Says:

    Oh, my, I just stopped by Magpie and can see I will have to have some more of this deliciousness!

    And the fact that this one is nonfiction makes it even better, Angie!

  47. Elisa_Croatia Says:

    Angie, beautifully written. the innocence of childhood. We had similar experiences. every summer our parents would drop us off with my maternal grandparents for 3 months. your story takes me back to those years.

    hope all is well with you, have a wonderful weekend.


  48. Jena Says:

    Girl! You have the best stories! You had the best childhood!!!

  49. audrey Says:

    oh what a beautiful and sad and hope-filled story. it does speak of the gift of loving deeply and truly. the loss of this is enough to break a person.

    so happy she was able to smile again with time… and you and your sister’s love and thoughts of her, i imagine helped her more than one can know…

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