When counting my blessings Erica Stone rates high on the list. Girls who grow up in East Texas need a little culture, and Erica gave me that. Erica, a native of Wellington, New Zealand met her husband, Stonie, a GI, during WWII. Can you imagine her amazement when he brought her home to Huntington, Texas? Huntington makes Spruce Pine look big.
Erica was a classy lady. I never saw her in pants, in fact she always wore a dress and hose. She was quiet with a ready smile. She wasn’t really grandmotherly. Erica was too reserved for that, but she was a member of our family. Early holiday remembrances include Huntington. Mom would be invited to decorate Erica’s hearth. Nell would use greenery, red bows and Erica’s collection of deer.
Near Christmas we’d gather at the Stone’s big white frame house with the wraparound porch. We’d listen to classical music albums and sip eggnog, the real stuff. Erica kitchen produced the world’s greatest homemade bread and sausage rolls.
Erica was kind and gentle, a true lady. She’d frequently join us on Cousart St. at Christmas. John and Nell had a few shared causes, and Erica was one of them. Mom and dad were her advocates and friends. I’m very grateful to have known her.
Our gray tabby cat, Kiwi, is named in honor of Erica. I wanted to name her “Nell” or “Betty or “Erica”. Rob suggested “Kiwi”, which is the nickname of a native New Zealander.
Probably the biggest adventure of our marriage (to date) was traveling to New Zealand in 1990. Erica introduced us to her cousins, Ron and Nolene Grant. We visited them and their children and toured the North and South Islands of New Zealand. Our adventures included tours of Wellington, Auckland and Rotarua. We stayed at a bed and breakfast in Eketahuna with none other than a Ducks Unlimited officer. How perfect for Rob. They served us pate’. We attended a county fair in Christchurch, but our favorite evening was dinner with a bunch of barristers at a vineyard in Martinborough.
If you go to spiritual retreats they ask about your faith journey. Minnie Jane is part of my foundation. I remember spending the night with her. We’d read the Bible. She was a tiny, little woman. Mom would say, “The only time she weighed more than a 100 pounds was when she was pregnant or sopping wet.”
Minnie Jane could sew which was impressive since her hand was damaged by a gunshot wound. She and her husband, Bob, were out squirrel hunting. The dog was apparently excited about the treed squirrel and jumped on our grandfather’s gun. The bullet discharged into Minnie Jane’s hand and left one hand permanently claw-like. She could help a child with buttons, but it was a challenge.
She also had a green thumb. Her humble frame home on Hwy 706 always boasted a pastel flower garden. Mom inherited her gift and love for growing things. You would never have to worry about catching a foodborne illness from Minnie Jane. Her meats were cooked to a crisp. Her teacakes, however, were excellent.
Flowers are part of our heritage.
Remember our little green house on Cousart St.? According to Mom, she and John Vernon purchased this home from a gas station owner on the corner of Timberland Dr. She said the bedrooms were painted bright blue and orange because he used available gas station colors. Cousart was a relatively happy place. Can you remember Christmas seasons on Cousart? My favorite one involves tree decorating, a tradition that remains magical.
You’ll have to remember that Robert is 12 years old than me. He went to college the year I started elementary school. John and I were in charge of the Christmas tree. We tried to make do with an evergreen of the Charlie Brown Christmas variety. Funds were always tight. I can’t remember if we cut the tree or if it was given to us. We went through all the steps, decorated the scraggly branches with family heirlooms, various and sundry balls and homemade ornaments. We added icicles and sprayed it with canned snow. Only then did we realize that the free tree did not measure up. We unloaded the scraggly pine, pitched it and sped down to the lot on 59N to purchase a more shapely one. The funny part was looking at it after all our efforts and realizing the tree had to go. It simply didn’t meet our standards.
I’m dating this photo Christmas of 1961. Is Robert the photographer? Grandma Nell looks skinny. She and John Vernon are in the same room, and she looks happy.