On her eighty-ninth birthday, Anne Laudun Mayfield asked God not to have to see another birthday. For the past three years, she was, she told me, a little put out. When everyone gathered for her ninety-third birthday this past June, we asked her what she thought of being ninety-three. “It’s just ridiculous,” she said. “It’s just ridiculous.” Funny when she was mad, or pretending to be mad, Aunt Anne was an independent soul who, in an almost contradictory fashion, seemed put here on this earth to remind us of the importance of being together.
Her life began along the road that stretches from Home Place to Weeks Island where she grew up in a family that eventually numbered ten children that had two fathers and three mothers. Perhaps it was there that she learned that all that mattered was love and being together, for she would reveal that, technically, many of her brothers and sisters were half or step-siblings. In her heart and in her stories, however, they were no steps, no halves.
There on Weeks Island, in the literal and figurative big house of her telling, she was reading one day on the porch when the mill boss came striding his way across the yard to see her mother. Seeing her reading, he stopped and asked her what she was reading. “A book,” she said. “Don’t you like to read magazines or go see movies?” he asked. “No,” she replied. “They’re all so silly.” He continued on his way into the house, but the next day word came that he wanted to pay for Aunt Anne to continue her schooling, and with that she took her first step out of the country and began the journey that would lead her eventually to Atlanta, where she worked for what was then American Motors, and where she would meet the love of her life William Mayfield.
Her time with Bill was all too brief, but in her estimation it was all she could have hoped for, and when he died, she brought him home here to Jeanerette, to be with her, and so that she could join him today.
From that moment over forty years ago until now, she became the great aunt that most of us knew her as. Her and Cecile became, well, Anne and Cile. They were a pair, intertwined in our minds, always together. If Anne ever regretted not having children of her own, she never spoke it. Instead, she seemed to rejoice in the love and attention that all of you had so much of that you blurred the line between mother or grandmother and aunt and great aunt.
I would be remiss in speaking here today—and I know Anne would want me to say it—if I didn’t publicly thank all of you for everything you did for her. Eddie, you and your children have my thanks and the thanks of everyone here for everything you did. She was not always the easiest of charges, and I know you sometimes felt taken for granted. I got to sweep in and be the special guest of the day now and then, but what you cannot have known was that how she spent time with me was telling me stories about you. All of you were her lights. She couldn’t read, and towards the end, she couldn’t even see to watch television, but she could listen and she could tell stories.
One time when I was visiting her, and I had finished reading her something, and I asked her to tell me a story, she told me that she didn’t have any new true stories to tell me but that she had some stories she told herself but that she made up. One involved a man who got lost in the woods, and one involved a doctor falling in love with a young woman. Things weren’t, she said, looking too good right now, but I shouldn’t worry, she assured me, things were going to turn out all right: the hunter would find his way out of the woods and the couple would fall in love and marry.
Things were going to turn out all right. And things have turned out all right. Anne Laudun Mayfield took what she had, time and love and stories, and she made a family out of them. Out of us. She’s telling stories to others now, and I think I can with some sense of certainty that in those stories things are going to turn out all right. Thank you, Aunt Anne, thank you for keeping us together, for telling us stories, for loving us. May God bless you and hold you close.