Auntie Lo turns 100

for Lois Mae Haag Dietz
Jan. 29, 1923–Sept. 26, 2006

If she were still here—
or we made it to her musical
heaven—wouldn’t she be at
the piano, fingers moving
smoothly over her own
happy birthday?

All of us singing along
in that celestial space—
her parents who gave her
and her brother so much music,
instruments all over the house,
piano lessons with the pianist
who became one of my
grandfathers, the one who
pushed the piano out into
the village to play for street
dances on warm evenings.

She, who taught so many hands
on both piano and organ in what
my sister and I thought of as
Auntie Lo’s music room,
where older cousins Dede
played the marimba and Pat
the clarinet, where the family
would gather after dinner,
we little cousins urged to
“sing it out, girls!” to so many
spoonfuls of sugar and let’s
go fly a kite and every kids’
song that Auntie Lo knew
by heart.

Because that’s where the music
was embedded, what she held
in her generous heart, shared on
keyboards, spread around the table,
with so many she loved, what
endeared her to two nieces
who loved to walk with her
and the long-legged chihuahuas
to the park, old bread bits
toted along for the feathered
friends at the duck-duck pond.

She who’d later come to the guest
room those nights we spent on
Ostrom Avenue, stand at the
threshold and cue us to blow
out the light. We’d purse our lips,
and whoof out the overhead
as her finger switched it off,
Auntie Lo’s voice floating down
the hall:

See you in the morning, girls.
Sleep tight.
Don’t let the bedbugs bite!

Auntie Lo with baby Lauren Just, circa 1988 (and Lois’s father, Ed Haag, in the background) at home on Ostrom Avenue in Long Beach, California.

About janishaag

Writer, writing coach, editor
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