A pin in her hip kept her confined to a wheelchair in latter years. But at one time, you could always find her toiling in her garden that in autumn was a jungle of dahlias. I don’t recall seeing them except in photographs—the blooms were head-high. Dad tells me that Aunt Dodo could coax anything to grow in "pure mud." She transformed the landscape with mulch, kitchen scraps and anything else she could turn into compost. Dad says she would order all manner of "oddball" stuff from catalogs and that she made the most of her space, training cucumbers, squash and any plants she could talk into growing vertically.
Aunt Dodo filled the table with vegetables from the garden to feed the family while her sister spent several years in a tuberculosis sanatorium. In the trunk, I found this letter she wrote to my grandmother Sept. 9, 1949:
".....I cut the last cabbage today. We have had plenty all summer. The 175 I put out are living all but few the pidgeons snipped off. We had our first tender greens yesterday with corn bread. The two new patches I planted few days ago are coming up —purple top and tendergreens. The new tomatoes are coming along and have plenty for the table. The last 12 plants are just ready to bloom. New snap beans almost ready to bloom. We get plenty okra - egg plant - lima beans - snap beans - hot & sweet peppers. So far very few things bought outside of staples. The figs are ripening fast. I preserve them for you. Lots of love, Sis Dora"Aunt Dodo was a tough old broad, widowed young. She was a subsistence gardener and flower grower, a hard-working private duty nurse, devoted smoker and a faithful one-Budweiser-a-day drinker. Dad recalls visiting her in an apartment littered with dog-eared copies of Popular Mechanics and Popular Science magazines and ashtrays with butts piled to the ceiling.
Aunt Dodo was one of my dearest relatives. When I was young, she clipped articles about Elton John and other rock stars I liked and tucked them into her shakily hand-scrawled letters to me. After both she and my grandmother were dead, my dad and uncle found her wedding ring among the possessions. It fit me perfectly, and they gave it to me as a gift, which I put on immediately and never took off. When I got married, I chose to wear it as my own.