Thursday, May 29, 2008

Laura Morgan Satterfield 1915-2008

Aunt Laura was one of those people who had a palpable spiritual and emotional influence on everyone she met. It was impossible to visit her and stay glum. She asked questions, she showed you her plants, she was positive, joyful and optimistic. She was a great pleasure to know and to love. Many, many people knew and loved her.

The facts of her life are simple: she was a textile worker from Cherokee County, Georgia, a Baptist, married twice, two children. But she was in no way simple. She had the key, the Holy Grail, the one we all seek: she was perpetually happy. She was the most thoroughly contented person I have ever known. If you could bottle it, we'd all be lined up, willing to pay an exorbitant price.

And it wasn't a shallow happiness, a happiness without price. Her positive temperament seemed in equal parts natural and chosen; she consciously avoided interpersonal strife, grudges, pettiness. One sensed, by the time I met her in her 70s, that she had had quite enough of such behavior, and had no use for it. She made a decision to be happy. She had a framed sampler on her wall, a Will Rogers quote: Things ain't what they used to be, and probably never was. That common-sense attitude sums up so much about her.

One year, she decided she had had enough of Christmas cards, and warned everyone to stop sending them to her. "I'm not sending them out, at this point, it's wasteful," she said, "so I'm just warning yall!" Of course, upon visiting her house, the door and entrance-way were covered in lovely, gaily-colored cards, as always. "I told em!" she shook her head, uncomprehending. She didn't seem to realize, none of us could refrain from sending cards to our beloved Aunt Laura and whether she sent one to us in return, mattered not a whit.

Left: One of Aunt Laura's crocheted tablecloths, also in close-up, showing the intricate design.

Aunt Laura was also a great artist. Her work was known primarily within her own (very large) extended family, so most people will never know her exemplary talent, as is true of so many women artists. Because of the webpage her son designed some years ago, a few people on the net discovered her work later in her life, some from as far away as India. In my memory, I always see her weaving some new, beautiful creation. She looked at patterns for guidance, but basically did it her own way, choosing not to follow any written directions. Her fiber designs, of which I have several, were like giant woven flowers come to life.

I can never remember a time in which she wasn't crocheting something beautiful and useful; usually another carefully-crafted gift. "Somebody's always getting married, having babies, you know how it is," she told me once, "I have to keep busy!" And she did. The secret to happiness and long life?

She was a wonderful, generous woman, and her peaceful countenance fell upon everyone who entered her small house.

Words fail me.

Goodbye dearest Aunt Laura, we love you so much.