My Aunt Bayonne

Bayonne Alice Daniels

Written by Her Nephew

A. Rod Paolini


As I began writing this memoir of my aunt Bayonne, I realized that I was writing about my early childhood memories of Harmony and the Reburn family. I started a second attempt but then realized that I was trying to write biography in the style of my genealogical history of the Paolini family. As such, I had very few facts as to where and when she and her family moved, and certainly I had little idea as to why. To make suppositions would have lead to wholly unfounded interpretations. I did have one asset that revealed and portrayed my aunt as I came to know and love her: her letters. She was prolific. In the period of twenty years, from 1982 to 2002, she wrote forty letters to me. They were not just short notes, but thoughtful letters describing her life, her observations, and her opinions; and they were even better on second reading. I finally decided to describe my aunt as I knew and loved her, using the chronology of her life as an outline and as a means of describing her, her life, and values, outlook, and opinions. I have liberally sprinkled excerpts of her letters as she expresses herself so clearly that I need only introduce the subject. As a consequence of the above, this memoir is not intended as a full portrayal of Bayonne Alice Daniels Reburn. It is my impression and my remembrance of her for which I treasure.

A. Rod Paolini March 26, 2012

Re-discovering My Aunt Bayonne In 1975, my friend Chuck Billington and I took a canoe trip down the Root River in southeastern Minnesota. It was mid-June, and fields of soy beans and corn were a rich green that lay over the rolling hills while the sun was shimmering white light and the air so clear that one could see for miles. We paddled down the river, through prairie, farm fields, and small towns. At times the only sound was the a gentle wind, and as paddled, it was though we were in a timeless world.

Root River

After our three-day journey, we decided to retrace the route by automobile, and so we drove on country roads that paralleled and crossed the Root River. Chuck had planned the trip, and so I was only vaguely aware of where we were. As I became familiar with the map, I realized that we were in the vicinity of Harmony, Minnesota, the small town “out on the prairie” where my mother was born and raised. Of her five siblings, only her sister Bayonne and her family still resided there. As a child, my mother and I had visited my aunt Bayonne and her husband Al Reburn, together with their two sons, Rock and Rick. I said to Chuck: “I have an aunt that lives in Harmony. Could we go see her?” “For sure,” said Chuck. We drove into Harmony, and I realized that I had no idea where she lived. We drove down main street and then turned on a side street where I spotted a woman walking down the sidewalk. “Excuse me,” I said. “Do you know Bayonne Reburn? I’m her nephew and I’m looking for her house.” “Of course, she said. Just down the street three blocks. It’s the one on the southwest corner.” Indeed we were in Harmony, Minnesota, population 1,051. It was dusk, and the porch was dark. A dim light emanated from the screen door, probably the glow from a television. I knocked, but I felt a bit uneasy. I hadn’t seem my aunt in twenty-five years when I was ten years old. Would she remember me? Would she believe who I claimed to be? A woman came to the door. “Hi,” I said. “I’m Rod Paolini, Isabel’s son.” “Well, goodness,” she replied. “Come on in!” Relieved, Chuck and I entered, and we sat and chatted for awhile, and then she invited us to have dinner at the local restaurant, Harmony House. After dinner, we returned and continued our visit. Nineteen-seventy-five was in the period of the fledgling feminist movement, which included a men’s liberation movement. Chuck and I had met and knew each other through a Men’s Group in Chicago. In addition to being city-slickers, we were liberals, Chuck being a social worker and his wife an


attorney while my wife Kathy was a public health nurse and I was an analyst for the Department of Human Services of the city of Chicago. I didn’t know anything about my aunt, but I knew that we were in rock-ribbed Republican territory. I wasn’t sure how she would view us. But from her interrogation, we “fessed up.” To my surprise, she not only shared our social views, it was obvious that she was conversant with the past and current feminist writings and the current women’s movement. I had found a kindred soul who was also kin. And so began a new relationship with my aunt Bayonne. She was a prolific letter writer, perhaps not in the tradition of belles-lettres, her grammar not always meeting standards of college English 101, yet they are so revealing of her personality, poignant of her feelings and attitudes, and evidence of her wisdom and love of life. Thank you for a wonderful letter; that was something of a masterpiece. Your father would have approved of such a letter?! I suspect he thinks most letters are not worth the writing. We still write to say, "I took the car in for a tune-up," and "I'm waiting for a cake to bake so will write this letter while I'm waiting." And it's also a comforting reminder that we are thought of and loved.

Bayonne’s Early Life in Harmony Bayonne was the last Daniels to remain in Harmony after her sisters and brother had sought their futures elsewhere. The Daniels family had been quite prosperous and prominent. Her father, Herb Daniels married Ausye Gurine Harstad in 1913, he then forty-nine and she but twenty-two. He had left his farm and owned the John Deere dealership as well as being the co-owner of a flour and feed mill. He served two terms as president of the town council. Herb Daniels was admired and loved by his wife and children. More than once Mom told us girls, "I feel sorry for you. You don't know anything about men because you live with a saint." She was right. I thought men were honest, gentle, loving and could fix anything that needed fixing–hurt feelings or dripping faucets. Not so I was to learn. (Letter to her brother Rod Daniels) Even as a child, I sensed that Dad was different from other people. There was an innate goodness about him that came through, and when I was little, being with Dad made me feel like I did in Sunday School-I wanted to be a better person. It's hard to explain because Dad never set impossible standards or criticized; I wanted to think I was really worth being loved by someone so wonderful. (Letter to her brother Rod Daniels) -2Herbert Alonzo Daniels

When the Great Depression hit in 1929, the fortunes of the Daniels family dwindled, as they did for most Americans. The mill became heavily mortgaged and was finally lost in foreclosure to the bank, the principal loan officer being his own brother, Will Daniels. I can remember the night that Dad hit bottom. He didn't get home until late. I heard him come in and [I] started for the kitchen to see him. Through the door I could see him at the kitchen table with his head on his arms, and I heard him say, "It's all gone, Ausye." I didn't have any idea what he meant, but I was numb with fright. Whatever it was that made my strong father weep had to be so dreadful that I didn't want to know. I hid and cried because I didn't want the others to know something terrible was happening to us. (Letter to her brother Rod Daniels)

Ausye Gurine Harstad

Herb Daniels lost the dealership, though he and his partner George Morem continued to repair the implements, often for little or no pay, as the farms were in similar dire straits. It isn’t unusual, that in the toughest times for adults, children recall it being the best of times, perhaps because people engage in the simple pleasures of life and enjoying each other’s company that are appreciated by children more than we realize. In a letter to her brother, Rod: Can you remember when you were little and would sit on Dad’s lap in the old blue wicker chair, and Dad would read and draw his famous pigs for you. I can still see you. You would make such a big thing of getting the tail on the pig. Dad would draw it with a flourish, and you would both laugh. When Dad wasn’t committed to helping out some farmer who was as bad or worse off than we, he’d take a Sunday to go fishing with Obie Harstad and Ed Roche. He always came home with some good stories after one of those sessions. Obie took fishing as seriously as religion, and he was prone to lecture. Ed was a practical joker, and outwitting Obie was more fun than landing any fish. I don’t know how Dad ever got Obie to accept taking a child along, but a few times I talked Dad into letting me go with him, and I loved sitting on the bank of a stream holding a bamboo pole as much as any of the men.


Surely the burden of his financial difficulties took a toll on her father’s health, though he was seventy-three years old when he died in 1936, leaving a wife of age forty-six, and five children.1 The household dispersed over the next two years. The oldest daughter, Shirley, had married prior to her father’s passing, and she and her husband Ernie Olsen were living in Minneapolis. Alma Jean departed for Colorado.2 In 1938, wife Ausye moved to Chicago to pursue a love interest but the man never left his wife. Ausye operated a boarding house for a few years, then became a nanny to a wealthy Jewish family. My mother Isabel graduated from high school in June 1938, and within a month, followed her mother to Chicago to begin a career as a bookkeeper. Rod–my namesake–the youngest and only boy, accompanied his mother to Chicago, but then was sent to stay with his sister Alma Jean in Colorado. And so Bayonne Alice Daniels, the second oldest, remained in the homestead in Harmony.

Isabel Flavia Daniels Alma Jean Daniels

Bayonne had graduated from Harmony High School in 1934 and obtained a teaching degree from Winona State Teacher’s College in 1935, but she could not find a teaching position. As has been said, ‘there’s Bayonne Daniels (about 1935) always work at the post office.’ She rose at 5:00am Monday through Saturday to hitch the mail bag to the hook for it to be snagged by the 5:45am train. She picked up the mail bag that had been cast from the train and returned to the post office in order to sort the letters and place them in the appropriate boxes, all under the watchful eyes of the early risers, impatiently waiting for their mail. Still, she was thankful for the job:


A fourth daughter, Marjorie, was born with spina bifida in 1922 and died two years later. Alma Jean married Joe Sudlik, but it is not known when or where they were married. -4-


But we were so glad to have a job, we didn’t dare to take a day off if we were at death’s door for fear they would find we weren’t indispensable. Bayonne had many suitors, many of which offered a prosperous life. Surprisingly to some, she chose one Allen Gregory Reburn from the nearby town of Le Roy, and they married in January 1940. Al was drafted in the United States Army in 1942 and served as a cook until a year after the end of the war. My First Impressions of My Aunt and Uncle My mother and I often visited the Reburns, taking the Hiawatha train from Chicago to La Crosse, Wisconsin where Bayonne would pick us up. I felt that I was in foreign territory. Among my parent’s friends and relatives, I was usually ignored, which didn’t bother me as I enjoyed listening to my aunts and uncles converse (not really an accurate verb to described the manner in which my Italian relatives talked) and played with my cousins. In Harmony, adults talked to children, but more vexing to me is that they expected children to talk to them. I felt like an actor without a script, and I didn’t know my part. On one occasion, I was taken to a dance hall where there was a square dance and asked to join. I was scared out of my wits and refused. I really did not get to know my aunt very well in my childhood, and if fact, I gained a rather negative impression of her. She slept late, usually to ten or eleven o’clock whereas my folks, especially my father, was usually up at six–and that’s when he slept late. Their house was rather messy with toys and newspapers scattered about, whereas my mother kept our house in order and immaculate. It wasn’t until years later that I learned that my aunt suffered from allergies, especially ragweed, which if there was a market similar to soybeans and corn would make most Minnesotans rich. I gained an understanding and great appreciation for my aunt’s suffering when my family and I moved to Virginia where I suffer from a plethora of allergens. Al had owned and operated a restaurant with his brother before the war, but they didn’t get along and Al quit. After the war, he and Bayonne opened up a restaurant in Harmony. I remember walking downtown and entering Al's restaurant. I was told that Al was somewhat temperamental: hot and cold. If you were on his good side, he couldn't do enough for you, but if you got on his bad side, he was disdainful. Luckily for me, I was on his good side, for I remember he gave me a chocolate milkshake for free. Perhaps he gave away too many milkshakes, or maybe there were two other eateries in Harmony, a town of a thousand people. In any case, the business was not successful, and they had to close the restaurant. Al got a job as a salesman of trees and shrubs to be planted by farmers along their fields in order to reduce wind erosion. As a consequence, he was on the road much of the time.

Main Street, Harmony, MN (1950)


I though that Al looked a bit like W.C. Fields, and his voice sounded the same as well, though he did not have Field’s mannerisms. Unfortunately he shared one other similarity of Fields: a fondness for booze. It did not return the favor kindly.

The Reburns had a dog named Tucker, a female, cocker spaniel with a black coat and long droopy ears. My mother is not a dog person, having been bitten by one on the same street when she was young. For me, I can take them or leave them, preferably outdoors. Bayonne, Rock and Rick would play a charade every time the five of us went somewhere. Bayonne had a Ford coupe, probably of 1947 vintage. I could have out dragged it with my bicycle for at least the first fifty yards. Bayonne would insist that Tucker be left at home though Rock and Rick would howl in protest. As we would pull away, Tucker would chase after us, and Rock and Rick would plead with their mother. "Her heart will burst," Rock would cry. Bayonne would always relent, and Tucker, covered with road dust, would jump in the car and settle in the back seat between my mother and me, panting and drooling. About seven or eight years later–in the early fifties--my mother remarked that Bayonne had intimated that not all was well with her marriage, but then she bore another son, Barry in 1955, and a daughter Valerie in 1956. Was all now well? A while later, I was told that Rock had ‘emotional problems,’ but nothing more. After Barry and Val graduated from high school in the mid-70's, the Reburn family moved to the neighboring town of Winona where Bayonne worked for a volunteer organization. She later wrote:

Allen Gregory Reburn

Surprisingly I miss my job in Winona much more than I'd expected to. Working for a volunteer organization was a completely new experience. I especia11y3 miss the two administrators– I love to work with enthusiastic people . Jim and Vicki were two of the hardest working people I have known-fun and realistic. Working with the downtrodden isn't the most fulfilling job, and it's good there are people with sense like Jim and your Uncle Rod out there to be coping with the situation. One minute your torn up over some poor creature, and the next you are ready to kill a moocher. Bayonne then moved to California. It was a new beginning. I scanned Bayonne’s letters, and then cut and pasted her quotes in this document. Upon closer reading, I discovered that she used the number ‘1' instead of an ‘l’, probably because that key was in operable. When I purchased my first computer with its word processor, I gave her my typewriter for which I believed she would truly appreciate. -63

Los Angeles, California In a small town, it’s comforting that, as at Cheers, the mythical bar in Boston, everybody knows your name. Somewhat disconcerting though, is that they know a whole lot more: where you’ve been, what you’ve done, with whom you did it; and there is no statute of limitations. How the crops are doing and what other people are doing are the main topics of conversation. In Los Angeles, one may have friends not solely based upon proximity. Neighbors can become friends or not as one chooses. There may be no crops to discuss, but there are all sorts of sights and sounds, ethnic neighborhoods, exotic food, fashion, politics, sports, etc., by which one can meet people, start a conversation and establish a friendship. Or you can just voice your opinion to the person next to you and not suffer the consequences: Out here there are a lot of rednecks too, but, for the first time in my life I have a chance to express myself. I talk to people on the buses, in museums, wherever. The chances of meeting them twice is minimal, and I'll never have to eat my words. It's freedom I never had. In the Los Angeles area, a megalopolis that believes that one must drive to go anywhere, my aunt visited museums, art galleries, the zoo, concert halls, theater and movie houses by traveling by public transportation. She visited places of which most natives are aware but never visit. Saturday I'm going for the annual Christmas concert at the music center. I'm torn as to whether I should stay home and hear all 12 hours of it, or sacrifice four hours of listening; riding the bus so I can sit in that beautiful theater and enjoy the music with hundreds of other people. If it's sunny and warm out, I'll opt to go. And her anonymity gave her freedom of expression to be the person she wanted to be. I scold myself for getting so passionate over such things, but then I heard a man say that little got done until people got angry, so I 'll go on with buzzing in indignation and at least make a nuisance of myself if I feel justified in doing so. Obviously there were things that she missed about home: Now I wish I could take in a school program. I miss them and the Sunday School programs. That’s small town, and a part of it I don't get over. but she could laugh at the differences. I'm somewhat embarrassed at my preference for Minnesota cooking. To -7-

me, it's the best, but when I got out in the world a little, I found my tastes are considered provincial at best, and barbaric at worst. I'll never forget how crushed I was when someone introduced me as it a Minnesotan who ate Jell-o with fruit in it." The contrast between the world of Harmony and the world of Los Angeles became quite explicit: It's strange how often when I'm visiting with friends from back home, I find myself trying to be careful about my opinions. Some of them live such a sheltered life that it upsets them no end to learn that a contemporary thinks Lawrence Welk is corny and Billy Graham a fraud. I have learned to avoid these controversial subjects. I could gag when they tell me they want to go to the Crystal Cathedral to hear that saccharine Robert Schuller. I find I am my mother's daughter in many ways. She never limited her thinking to the boundaries of Harmony, Mn. As did her mother Ausye, Bayonne found work as a nanny, taking care of young children of mothers and fathers who worked full-time. No one was better suited for this line of work, and no one enjoyed it more. Zachary is five now, and he and I liked being together. Susan says he misses me and wishes I'd come back. I wish so too in many was, but transportation won't allow it. Anyway, Susan asked where I'd like to eat, and I told her we ought to go someplace the boys like. Zachary called from the back seat, "Nanna Bayonne, even if I don't like the food, I will eat it wherever you want to go." Coming from a child, that's a compliment to cherish. And, My little Alicia who is now 16, wrote that she remembered the stories I made up for her– she was always the heroine "Princess Alicia", and she said [that] she still thinks of herself like that when she thinks of me. It's so satisfying to know that in even small ways we have sometimes made an impression.

As a nanny for wealthy people, she realized that they had different expectations than what she had as a child: These people have so much, but there is no such thing as enough. I feel sorry for children who are never allowed to anticipate and really want -8-

something badly. Every day is Christmas here, and nothing is appreciated. Whereas: People miss a lot when they haven't been given a chance to go without sometimes in order to really appreciate. I don't suppose I'll ever live so long but what I'll always marvel at having hot running water. I remember her most poignant remark to me about her love for California: Before moving here, I never thought that my feet would ever be warm. A year or so later, Al joined Bayonne in California but from this brief reference, it doesn’t seem that the reunion was entirely welcomed. How I wish I could have a nice leisurely visit, but I don’t dare to leave Al alone for long. The ways of the city are foreign to him and he plans to keep it that way. He is totally resistant to change. It isn’t that I am indispensable....if I died tonight, he’d get along. But it’s one thing to be gone for good and out of it, and something else to go and have to come back to God knows what. I can bank on a filthy house, a sick dog and dead plants, and there’ll be more surprises. Once when I was baby sitting for three days, I came back to find most of a complete set of China for eight pretty much eliminated. It isn’t funny to me and I can’t afford extra expense nor do I care to clean up the mess. Al began to suffer Korsakoff's dementia, a neurological disorder caused by the lack of thiamine (vitamin B1) in the brain and is linked to chronic alcohol abuse and/or severe malnutrition. I feel safe in ruling out the latter. About 1989, Bayonne brought Al back to Minnesota and enrolled him in a nursing home in Grand Meadows, a few miles from the town of Le Roy where he was born and where his son Barry and daughter Val could visit him, however unrewarding it may have been. Last Sunday Val took me to Grand Meadow [nursing home] to see Al, not a fun visit. He’s been there more than 8 years and hasn’t known us for four years. I wish we could call our own signals and escape when we are ready. It’s sad to have to keep going simply because your heart keeps beating.

Columbia, Maryland It was apparent that my aunt became very close to the families for whom she was employed, and it one case, they could not part from her though they were moving to Columbia, Maryland; and so they ask that she relocate and live with them, which she did, and much to my family’s benefit as well.


The year was 1985, and my family had moved to Reston, Virginia in 1978–an hour’s drive from Columbia–and so we were able to visit several times, though not as often as I could have as I reflect in hindsight. It was at this time that I realized how beloved she became by children, for I realized that she became a dear ‘aunt’ to my daughter Nicole and my son Jared. Each always received a card on their birthdays, and presents at Christmas, reflecting not her wealth, but the thought and care of a gift that was meaningful to each. I don't know what style furniture Nicole has for her doll house, but maybe she can use these items I found. If her doll house is anything like most of our houses, she’s learned to combine Early American, modern, Chinese and garage sale and learned to live with it. Through the years, in high school and college, and thus quite busy and involved with their own affairs, they took the time to correspond with her. For example, upon graduation in 1997, Nicole took a trip to Europe and toured the Scandinavian countries from which she sent her great aunt a letter. Bayonne wrote to me: I went with a Finnish fellow once; his brother was the contractor for the high school in Harmony aeons ago, and I've spent years regretting the fact I didn't marry him when I had the chance. He was handsome and solvent, and I couldn't have done better than that. Tell Nicole I recommend the Finnish men. As I spent time with my aunt, some of her mysterious past was revealed. On one occasion we took her to Colvin Run Mill to listen to a concert of the Mill Run Dulcimer Band. On this hot and sultry day, we were lying on a blanket in the shade, and I thought to take a photograph of my extended family. As I positioned myself, Bayonne realized that I was about to take her photograph. She leaped as though a snake had slithered onto the blanket. I never thought she could move quickly. She gave no explanation, but years later, I had organized a reunion of her and my mother in Harmony and they both related stories of their childhood. Bayonne revealed that she received her graduation photograph and gave a precious copy to her aunt Dora,4 who examined it pensively and then said, “Well, we can’t put that on the mantle, can we?” Scarred for life! In 1989, my mother visited us in Reston, and the two of them plus my wife Kathy, Jared, and I walked in the March for Women's Lives in Bayonne’s high school Washington, D.C. There were 500,000 people, and Kathy and I were afraid graduation photograph that these two little women would either be lost or trampled, but they clung to each other, arm in arm, and walked the entire length of the march from Farragut Square to the

Dora Daniels was actually a cousin but was called an aunt as she was twenty-nine years older than Bayonne. -10-


Capitol. I was proud of them, but also happy that they enjoyed being together and being with my family. The family for whom Bayonne was working moved to North Carolina, and the children had grown so as not to require a nanny, and so she returned to California.

Return to California Bayonne lived in apartments in various towns in the Los Angeles area: LaVerne, Rosemead, and Santa Ana. Even without Al, men still failed her at times. I asked that the janitor to come to replace light bulbs as I have no step stool. After two requests, one bulb got put in today. I left two out, but he put only one in, so I am still without light in the kitchen but the closet is well lit! In 1991, I had a business trip to Los Angeles during Spring break, and I took my son Jared. We visited my aunt who took us to Medieval Times for dinner and a show of jousting. It was a treat for Jared that he and I always remember. And though she lived in the city, she still thought about hometown ways: The Burpee Seed Catalog arrived a few weeks ago and even though I don't have a garden plot, I still feel the urge to plant a garden. When I was at [the] Wilkes last week, I noticed that one of the tomato plants had suddenly come up after the rain. We had tomatoes from that plant for several months last year, and now it revived and is loaded with blossoms again. I have never known that to happen before. I can hardly wait for the first tomato. Starting with my 25th college reunion in 1988, I began to revisit my past, and I thought a great deal about my visits to Harmony as a child. It was at this time that my father wrote and recorded his stories of his childhood and my mother wrote her autobiography. I wanted to learn more, and I wanted my children to learn about their heritage. In 1992, I persuaded my mother to come from Florida, and my aunt Bayonne to come from California for a reunion in Harmony. Jared accompanied me, but Nicole could not as she had just graduated from college and was touring in Europe. We visited the family homes, the shops, mills, train station and school at which my aunt and my mother would tell a story or remembrance. They recalled one incident in which they accompanied their mother trying to solicit donations to the Women’s Auxiliary or some such club. They approached the proprietor of the bakery to ask if he had any baked goods that were no longer salable. “I don’t think I have anything bad enough to give to the Women’s Auxiliary,” he replied. Both my mother and Bayonne told stories of their grandparents and the Harstad farm on the -11-

outskirts of town. Neither of them desired such a life, yet I noticed that they were always aware of how the crops were doing and the plight of the local farmers. When Iz drove me back to Rochester, we saw a few buildings down, and some of the corn fields looked bad. I guess until the crops are harvested, you can't figure on making a dollar. The corn got such a good start this year, and now, lots of it is gone. Not all memories were pleasant for Bayonne. My mother proposed that we visit the Harstad farm. Their grandparents on their mother’s side was Aanond (Owen) Harstad and Isabella (Belle) Brokken. When they passed away, their uncle James Tillman Harstad–better known as Tac–took over the farm. He was supposed to share the proceeds of the farm with his siblings, but each year he would explain that expenses were pretty much equal to income, and there was nothing to share. And then one year–about 1947–a new house was built. It seems that there was some money left over! Their mother–Ausye Harstad Daniels–never received a penny from her brother. Bayonne Daniels never forgot nor forgave him and his heirs, and she refused to visit the farm and her cousin. Maybe she learned a trick or two from her uncle Tac. About 1950, Ausye sold the house at 150 NE 4th Street,5 and Bayonne convinced her to buy a house at 1st Street, NW for her and her family. When Ausye died in 1975, Bayonne requested that the house be signed over to her and all her siblings acquiesced. Four years after our little family reunion, the town of Harmony sponsored a reunion. The little town may not have grown through the years, but it certainly exported thousands, many of whom returned July 4-7, 1996. The center of festivities was Selvig Park, a place that is normally vacant except for a concert on a Saturday evening, but on the 4th the crowd was so thick that one could hardly move. We agreed to have lunch at the restaurant at noon, but Bayonne could not take more than a step than she would meet a friend or acquaintance and have to stop and chat, much to the consternation of my father whose stomach always demanded punctuality. As poor as she seemed, she traveled about to visit friends and relatives, whether it was by bus about the environs of Los Angeles, or the far flung states of Texas and Florida to visit her sisters. Harmony ex-patriots were everywhere for which she had to mind her manners. Isabel called last night to make a final check and to prepare me for meeting with our cousin Marjorie and her husband who now live in Florida. Marjorie and her sister, Nadine, who was much closer to me, and one of the funniest people I ever knew, got religion some years ago and haven't been much fun since. It irritated me no end to pen a letter from either one of them and have several tracts slip out. Isabel is a wise woman and doesn't let herself get upset over the foibles of friends and acquaintances. I don't much care

The house in which Bayonne and Isabel Daniels were born was at 135 SE 1st Avenue, often called the Big House. -12-


anymore what people do or think as long as they leave me alone. I told Isabel I will try to behave, but I don't have to like it.

Return to Minnesota Bayonne returned to Minnesota in 1995, but lived in Rochester rather than Harmony. She resided in a senior citizens center. My mother and father moved from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to Harmony in 1996. On the several occasions that I visited my parents, I also visited my aunt. She had a very comfortable apartment in Fontaine Towers, and I know that she enjoyed the cultural attractions of Rochester: the library, theater and art gallery, all within walking distance. Yet she seemed to have no close friends in the building. She relied on her brother Rod and his wife Ferdy who lived in Rochester as did her daughter Val, and my mother and father in Harmony, an hour-drive away. It must be that my peers are all beginning to accept old age. It used to be that they sent a lot of supposedly humorous cards about senior citizens on the verge of senility and suffering every type of infirmity. The people, who were a year or two younger than I, always picked out the nastiest ones. I didn't get a single one of that kind this year. Now we are into memories and how wonderful life is. It's interesting to see how we react from stage to stage. Admittedly I hate being old. At least if you can't move fast and do a day's work, it would be a much better plan if it were arranged that you didn't want to do those things. I want to really work, and I'd like to travel and read for hours on end. The toughest thing for me to accept is not being old myself, but knowing that my children are catching up with me. I want them to stay young. But she wasn’t ready to retire. She worked several years at a Head Start school, probably as a teacher’s aide. In the end, it proved too frustrating, but her love and need to be around children never diminished. If I start to feel better, I'm thinking about going back to Head Start this fall. There was a big shake-up this spring. All the teachers except one was let go. Finally someone noticed how hopeless the situation was there. It will be a toss up if things improve depending on the kind of teachers they get. I liked the girl I worked with last year, but she didn't know a thing about teaching or discipline, and the kids were in charge. One day I sat there wondering, WHY am I wasting my time and being frustrated about what goes on here?– and I called the office and said "I quit." She was eighty-two in 1998; it was time to think about retirement. -13-

The teacher in another class spent all her time teaching the kids Spanish to further confuse them. She was a nut for sure. I didn't know the morning teachers, but they were evidently just as incompetent. I miss being with children. My babysitting days will end when Matthew starts first grade this fall, and then I will be at loose ends. She had to deal with failing health, but bore it with out complaint and without lessening her love of life. After Christmas this year I was sick for two weeks, and when I went to the doctor and was getting ready to leave, I put my tam on and adjusted it in the mirror. He laughed and said, "You'll be alright. I watched you put your hat on, and when people aren't interested in living, they don't care how they look. You'll be okay." About the year 2000, she moved to an assisted living facility in Le Roy where her youngest son Barry and his family lived. She vaguely referred to some conflict, and so moved to a similar facility in Harmony; then later she returned to Le Roy, again for vague reasons: “People who I thought were friends, weren’t” was her terse explanation. In 2002, my father was in failing health, and he was moved to a nursing home by my mother and me. From my observations at the nursing home, I commented to my aunt: “Most of the residents just seem to stare into space,” I said. “I would think that they would want to talk to each other about interesting subjects. Why don’t they talk to each other?” I asked. “There’s nothing they can talk about. Nothing happens here in Harmony.” “So why did you return to Harmony?” I asked. “I came back to die!” I felt as though I’d been hit between the eyes by a 2" by 4.” It was difficult to bear the thought. And I realized that the same reason had motivated my mother to return to Harmony as well. It was home even though it might yield disappointments. She was grounded in this small town, but her world was much larger. In one of my letters, I mentioned my interest in mythology and that I was reading of the works of Joseph Campbell. Always in tune with each other, and in tune with life, she wrote: Joseph Campbell is one of my heroes, and my favorite quote of his, is, "When you say Ahhhh, you are participating in divinity." I know what he means! When I see a rainbow or a bluebird or a perfect rose, an Ahhhh slips out, and you know what ecstacy is. Bayonne Alice Daniels died March 9, 2003 at the age of eighty-six. I miss her. Peace be upon her.


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