The old adage, “little pitchers have big ears” definitely applied to me. On Sunday afternoons, when Hall relatives gathered at the farm, and my brother and cousins played outside, I often preferred to sit in the big sunny living room with the “old folks.” These women – my aunts, great aunts, mother, grandmother, and older cousins – drank tea, ate cake and cookies, and talked and talked. Sunday was their day of rest and their day to catch up.
The roster of Hall family women included my mother’s much-older cousins Gertrude, Alice, and Melissa, the wives (Olga, Tilly, and Elsie) of her male cousins, my aunts Barbara, Glenna, Caroline, and Betty, and great aunts Hattie, Ellen, Ethel, Olive and Isabelle. Hattie and Ellen, born nine years apart, were doting older sisters to my grandfather Ellsworth. Both sisters married late. They were a great comfort and help to my great grandmother Lydia as she aged, and she referred to them as “my good girls.”
Hattie Cornelia Hall died when I was just ten years old. She was eighty-five. Hattie was her real name – not her nickname. On Thanksgiving she decorated the farmhouse with ferns and fall leaves and played hymns at the piano. On Sunday mornings she climbed the dizzying steps to the steeple of the First Congregational Church in Wallingford to ring the chimes. She held me on her lap when I was a baby and hugged me hard when we visited. Short and stout and white-haired and widowed, Hattie was always just there, and I never thought much about her.
But in her youth she was a delicate and social girl, and in this photo taken on an outing with a group of friends, she sits primly on a rock wearing a dark-colored many-buttoned dress, tight shiny boots, and a hat.
In her younger days she favored flamboyant hats and stylish dresses. The name “Hattie” seemed just right for her.
In the early 1890’s she met and married John Cannon. Their only child William was born in 1894.
In this photo of three-year-old William he shows off his mother’s love of fashion.
But in 1918, when he was just twenty-four years old, William died after a sudden illness – possibly diphtheria or the Spanish flu. For all of his too-few years, he was the light of Hattie’s life.
I remember Aunt Hattie as a cheerful and loving woman. I hope she found joy in her large family of nieces and nephews and their children, and that I was kind to her and hugged her hard enough.
On Wednesday: Aunt Ellen