Out to Old Aunt Mary’s, by James Whitcomb Riley
Five out of five stars
I am old enough to have memories of relatives that did what is commemorated in this book of poetry. Decades ago, it was very common for children of the city to spend extended periods of time during summer vacation with relatives that lived in the country and raised much of their own food. The purpose was to visit but to also provide additional labor that was relatively cheap. The cooking was generally very good and in many cases, the child returned with many fond memories and some added weight. When he was in his early teens my older uncle Kevin spent a summer with his aunt and uncle on their farm and he had a roll of fat around his middle when he got back.
This story in rhyme features two boys in cutoff jeans, with bare feet and a lot of energy to expend. There is talk of the barn lot, the smell of cherry blossoms and homemade jam, jelly, pies and honey from the hives. All good things, even visits to old Aunt Mary’s, must have a conclusion and this story ends with the passing of Aunt Mary. Peacefully in her bed, covered by a homemade quilt and looked over by a beautiful angel.
Originally published in 1887, this book is an ode to a simpler and in many ways better time. Boys were expected to work, but they were also allowed the freedom to roam and explore, making their own entertainment. Every day was different and exciting, there was no such thing as packaged entertainment for children of that era and they had no need of it.