Saturday, March 9, 2019

In Memory of Mat

My cousin Matilda was 8 years older than me. Growing up she was an exciting, awesome figure in my life. I didn't get to see her but every couple of years, but each encounter was fraught with significance. She was smart, funny and sassy and I admired her enormously.

I have a number of extremely vivid memories of Mat from childhood.

One summer when we were all together in our parents' childhood home of Troutdale, Virginia, Mat (then a young teen) took a whole troop of children including me and my little brother Charlie as well as several local children on a hike down to the creek and the swimming hole, without telling the parents where we were going. We came back hours later, hot, sweaty, sunburnt, our legs scratched from the brambles, and deliriously happy with great memories of water striders, newts, crawdads, and wading in the cold stream. I think the grownups yelled at Mat for scaring them.

A couple of years later, also in Troutdale, I remember Mat showing me how the neighbor's baby goats like to climb on things by getting down on the ground and letting the goats climb on her back.

When Mat was 18 (and I was 10), she had a VW Beetle - a convertible VW Beetle! This was the most awesome thing I'd ever seen. This was about the same time that I learned that Troutdale a little town I knew and loved was in located in "Appalachia" - a place that took on mythical proportions in the early 1960's. I made a vow about that time in my life that when I grew up, I was going to be a school teacher in Appalachia and have a VW Beetle (maybe even a convertible!).  It was by no means an accident that my first car (in 1975) was a VW Beetle, and I drove it all over Appalachia while I researched my Masters Thesis and Dissertation.

One of my best Mat memories is from when I was 18 (Mat was 26) and I graduated from high school. I had my very first trip on my own as an "adult" to visit Mat in San Diego where she was a Navy nurse. She took me all over San Diego, to all the tourist spots (Marine World, the San Diego Zoo, etc.), in her sporty little MG convertible. The best part of the trip was the party she and her roommate threw: they invited not only their nurse friends but a whole bunch of young Navy men! Men, dancing and beer! How could one not idolize a cousin like Mat.

As we got older the age difference mattered less. We became friends, who wrote, called, and visited. Mat's the reason I got on Facebook, she kept bugging me because she wanted to share pictures. Another way that we were able to keep touch with each other.  I will miss my cousin Mat. May she rest in peace.