My aunt, Deloris “Dee” Johnson was such a sweet person. She was the third child of my grandparents, George and Hattie Byer, and she truly loved her little siblings. She was happy to teach them things, and when she could, she really enjoyed buying things for them. One of the biggest gifts was a piano that graced Grandma Byer’s house for the rest of her life. We all played on that piano, and sometimes I wonder how Grandma kept her sanity. Nevertheless, that piano was a great blessing, and it was Aunt Dee’s great pleasure to gift it to her family. Aunt Dee was really a very special sister to her siblings.

Aunt Dee had a big imagination. She wanted to see how it felt to be a bird, so she gathered up one of her younger siblings, wrapped up in a trench coat, and stood in the wind. Of course, they didn’t really fly, but it felt like it. I know, because I’ve done that myself. It’s lots of fun. My mom, Collene Spencer, Aunt Dee’s younger sister said that her sister was always inventing something, but Mom didn’t tell me what. I’m sure that over the years everyone forgot what they were, because if they weren’t successful, that would be the end of it. Her son, Elmer did say that his mom was the true inventor of the “shoe watch.” That was an invention she started by attaching a watch to her shoe to help her be on time. It didn’t help Aunt Dee, but then being on time was something that the Byer family was famous for not being.

Aunt Dee grew up in a household of singing. Grandma Byer made housework fun for her nine children with the “sing while you work” concept. Aunt Dee, like most of her siblings carried that into her adult life. I think they all thought that singing gave them a sunny disposition, and I would have to agree. Having a mom who sings around the house, makes for a lighthearted home. I think that as a child of a song-filled home, my cousins would agree that a singing mom is one of the more pleasant memories of our childhood. Today would have been my Aunt Dee’s 92nd birthday. She has been in Heaven now for 27 years. I find that so hard to believe. Happy birthday in Heaven, Aunt Dee. We love you and still miss you very much.

I grew up in an age when people spanked their kids. In fact, I can’t think of one friend who never had a spanking. And my mother could discipline with the best of them. I just don’t think she liked it much. Oh, she could get in there and scream as well as anyone, and she wasn’t a push-over by any stretch of the imagination. But, in reality, I don’t think that she really liked all the screaming and arguing that went on in a house full of girls. You see, my dad was the only man, or boy in the house for all of our young years. Counting mom, it was 6 to 1.

Raising 5 girls with all of the emotions that can go on with 5 drama queens, I can’t help but wonder how she managed to keep her sanity. Part of her way was to tell us, “Just wait until your dad gets home!!” And it was a threat that would bring fear to our hearts, although I don’t exactly know why. My dad had a way of working out a situation without the need for a spanking, much of the time. Mom’s big threat was all the trouble we were going to be in when dad got home, and believe me, if you deserved it, you got it…big time, but if it could be worked out without a spanking, dad could do it. He really didn’t spank us much, we just knew that if he did…boy were we going to wish he hadn’t had to.

Mom’s way, on the other hand…whenever possible anyway, was to spread the sunshine and smiles. I remember that even if we had all been screaming and fighting, when all was said and done, Mom would sing some song like, “Let a smile be your umbrella, on a rainy, rainy day.” Or she might sing, “Keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side, keep on the sunny side of life.” Anything to stop the fighting and hopefully put a little cheer back into the house. Mom always hated the fighting that could go on in a house full of girls with very different points of view…and believe me, we could go at it. So much so that sometimes Mom would just decide that if fighting was what we wanted to do, we were going to do it!! Have you ever tried to fight on demand? It has a way of making you feel really ridiculous. At some point, you give up and end up laughing about the whole thing. I guess she was a pretty wise woman.

Mom always wanted her kids to be happy. She wanted our lives to be…just a little bit like living in Perfect. And while she knew that there was no real place like Perfect, she knew that her words and songs could add a little sunshine to our lives, so that has always been her goal. To this day, whenever we seem down in the dumps, or life is filled with stress, we can count on Mom to tell us, “Keep on the sunny side!!” That is just how she is. it’s who she is…the Keeper of the Sunshine!!

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