60 Days On the Mat – Day 16: Aunt Viola’s Shoes

Kulpmont, PA 1980

Aunt Marie and me
Kulpmont, PA 1980

I was so completely ready for Ellen’s class.  It was like coming to my yoga home.  The place it all started, really.  I would not be doing this at all had her classes and support not moved me through some of the most emotionally challenging months of my life.  I truly believe yoga has saved me from myself — and since this journey is nowhere near over, I hope it keeps up the good work.

Even my favorite spot was waiting for me. I was quiet today — a bit withdrawn.  No particular reason.  Mostly from all the work waiting for me to finish before the holidays.

That afternoon I slid into them like they were Cinderella’s glass slippers.  Aunt Viola’s shoes.  Memom’s favorite aunt was Aunt Viola.  She was her everything — her cheerleader, her Fairy Godmother.  The shoes are at least 75-years old; they fit me like a glove.  My cousin Lesley had given them to me when I was in Austin because they were too little for her.

I unpacked them and slipped them on my feet; I was taller.  I never wear heels; they felt great.  Aunt Viola was always single.  No children.  From what I remember, she was a pretty feisty broad.  I know why Memom was drawn to her.  Memom was nothing if not feisty.

The flow was hard today.  It was slow, long holds — I felt my strength waver a few times, but tried to push through it.

My mind wanders to Aunt Viola on the mat.  How strong she was to call her own shots, make her own money — live life on her own terms. I wonder if she was single and childless by choice?  I now wish I could go back to our one meeting in 1980 and ask her.  I was only ten so none of these thoughts were crossing my mind at the time.

I’m glad I have the shoes; I wish I had the story.

The flow was harder than I had remembered, perhaps because I had been doing the repetitive Bikram.  I know why people get addicted to Bikram, but vinyasa flow is a much deeper practice, at least for me.  We went down to the mat and did core work.  This was something that was missing all across Texas.  No class I went to focused on the core; Ellen always does.  I could feel the absence.

As I marinated in pigeon pose, my mind wandered to legacy.  I am so wrapped up in the only possible legacy being through children, yet many women choose completely different paths and have legacies equally as rich.  Did Aunt Viola have any idea that her great-nieces were going to dance around in her shoes across Texas and now California decades later?  I’m sure she didn’t.

Memom kept Aunt Viola’s legacy alive through stories.  She had no children, but she changed my grandmother’s life.  In fact, she changed it so drastically that I might not even be here today had she not intervened.  Memom was working in a bra factory right out of high school.  Her parents would not let her go to nursing school until she saved the money; Aunt Viola gave her the money.  Aunt Viola told her to “go, fly, see” — had she not done that, Memom never would have met GranGran in New York City in 1944.

It’s an amazing thought, but my father’s entire family owes our existence to Aunt Viola.  The strong woman with the awesome shoes who never had children — yet helped to give birth to generations of Merrills through her love and support of my grandmother.  I’m sure Aunt Viola never thought about this.  I had never thought about this until I got to the mat.

It’s amazing where your mind can wander on the mat as you are marinating in poses.

When I got home,  I dug through several boxes of old pictures looking for the picture I had taken with Aunt Viola that day.  I know it’s here — someday I will add it to the post.  All I could find today is the one of Aunt Marie (Memom’s younger sister) and me.  It was taken the same day.  They had dressed me up in some sort of fur coat, hat and a knitted purse.  I loved it.  Even at 10, I was taller than all of them.

After dinner I slipped on Aunt Viola’s shoes again.  I wore them around the house looking at all of the pictures of my family and Jonathan’s family.  My great-great-grandmother’s punch bowl sits in my windowsill.  I never met her, but a part of her lives on in my house.  The monkey pod salad bowl set my parents got in Hawaii when I was born is my favorite salad set.  They have been divorced longer than they were ever married, yet all of these things and stories and memories live on in me.

Today began the second quarter of 60 Days On the Mat.  Every day I wake up scared nothing will come. I try to wait until after I take yoga to even think about what I might write.  Sometimes my whole day comes out, sometimes the unexpected comes out — whatever it ends up being, I try not to think about how anything will unfold until I leave the mat.

My whole life the creative process of doing anything has never been this organic or unexpected.  Even when it was organic, beneath the surface I was always trying to be somebody or get somewhere or prove something.  For the first time, it’s not about any of that.  I already am the only person I can be — me, I’ve gotten many places — some more exciting than others, and the only things I have left to prove are to myself.  I’m grateful for the few dozen readers out there, but even if they were not there — the journey would still be worth taking.

I think it’s a good place to be when you are gearing up to embark on parenthood.  At least I hope.

I fell asleep on the couch after dinner.  My body was so tired I could feel the repair start to take place; I needed the ten hours of sleep.  As I drifted off, Aunt Viola’s shoes slipped off my feet.  I’m sure she never thought she would be a blog subject of her great-niece in 2012.  And the story goes on.


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