Today, I’m channeling the spirit of my late great grand auntie Leila Wagner.
Born in 1918, Auntie was born just one generation removed from the end of slavery. Yet despite, her family toiling as sharecroppers, she graduated with honors from high school, slayed on her school’s basketball team, and migrated north to Detroit with my war veteran Uncle Harold.
A code switcher before it was a term, Auntie was also a booster-numbers runner during the week and a faithful church servant every Sunday. She also proudly worked as a “Rosie the Riveter” during WWII, solved jig saw puzzles (with way too much blue sky!) and she loved to bowl.
Correction…Auntie loved to WIN championships bowling. She actually wiped the floors with young’uns well into her 70s.
Unfortunately, Auntie never had any kids of her own. But she loved me and my sister Gina just like we were her babies. And when we spent the night over my Granny’s (her big sister who lived upstairs) to go to church on Sunday, we played boardgames with Auntie every Saturday night for more weekends than I can even remember.
So, when Auntie passed away 11 years ago and I was tasked to pack her clothes up to donate, I wanted to keep a piece of her. Just for myself.
Today, I’m wearing her bowling shirt. It’s from circa 1950s? 1960s? I’m not sure. All I know is it’s one of my treasured valuables. And miraculously, it still smells like Auntie.