That’s Noody

I was in ninth grade when my English teacher asked us to write a three page paper on someone we respected. We were to choose someone who had influenced our thinking and whose character we admired. After groans from the class that the paper must go on for three long pages, we each set about choosing our person. Once we had decided, we were each to walk to the front of the class and write our choice on the blackboard. Since the person could be someone from any point in time, many chose religious, historical, or political figures. After we each wrote our person’s name on the blackboard, the teacher read them aloud.

I remember she went slowly down the list as she read names like George Washington, Mahatma Gandhi, and Neil Armstrong. Soon, she reached my chalk written choice.

“Margaret P. Lankey?” she asked, as she frowned and turned to the class, puzzled.

I raised my hand. “That’s Noody” I said. “She’s my aunt.”

I was never sure why we called her Noody. I probably asked but don’t recall an answer. It didn’t matter really. I come from a large family and almost everyone had a nickname. That’s just how it was done at home. Extended family lived all around me but I was lucky that Noody lived right next door. She and my uncle were as much a part of my everyday life as my parents and sisters.

Noody had an old redwood picnic table in her yard under the trees where she did everything from shelling butter beans to cleaning fish to cutting a watermelon for whoever happened to be in the yard that evening. When I saw her at the picnic table I’d walk over to visit. She was a great conversationalist and always seemed interested to hear what I had been up to. If she said “Let’s go sit in the swing.” I knew I was in for a treat. I loved to hear old family stories and she loved to tell them. She taught me the importance of remembering where you came from while not forgetting where you wanted to go. That’s Noody.

She could do things like drive a pickup truck, haul firewood, feed hogs and chickens, work hard in her garden, and slap on a baseball cap to cut grass, all while holding a handful of cookies to snack on now and then. She and Nannie, her mother and my grandmother, once cornered a snake near the barn. Noody, thinking she was lined up just right for a good decapitation, raised a hoe over her head and came down with all due force towards the snake. She missed, leaving a hole in the ground so deep that Nannie asked me to bring a shovel full of dirt to fill it. Noody belly laughed. Do your best to get the job done and if it doesn’t work as you’d hoped, so what, have a good laugh. That’s Noody.

Many winters if there was enough snow, we cousins took our sleds to a nearby hill. Noody would come along to be part of the fun. On other occasions we all went roller skating. Noody came along for that too, strapping on her skates to head into the rink like a pro. She even joined in the Hokey Pokey dance in the center of the rink a few times. At the family place on the Chesapeake Bay, while other adults sat on the beach or in the shade, Noody put on her bathing suit and plunged into the water with us kids. She taught me how to float on my back, and also taught me that hard work may be necessary, but playing hard is just as beneficial.

One time I stayed with out of town relatives for a few days. When I returned home I met Noody at the picnic table to tell her about it. When I finished relating my adventures she asked if I had yet sent them a “bread and butter note”. I told her not yet, but didn’t tell her that I had no idea what one was. She went inside and brought back some of her own stationery. There at the picnic table she helped me write a proper thank you note to the relatives I had visited. She taught me many lessons over the years. That’s Noody.

She was not just a mentor, but also an ally. Just before my thirteenth birthday I saw an ad in the back of Southern Living magazine for a tiny incubator and six quail eggs. Mama, not thrilled by my idea to add more animals to the ones I already had, gave me an instant “No”. I took the next logical step and met Noody at the picnic table. I showed her the ad and told her I really wanted to try hatching some eggs but Mama said “No”. Noody read the ad, put her hand on her hip and said, “Run bring me my checkbook.” With help from her, my uncle built a huge enclosure and the quail I hatched were part of my life for the next few years. If you want something that badly, why not go ahead and try. That’s Noody.

Many of my relatives are buried at the church near home that most of my extended family attended, and many still do. A couple years ago I took my kids for a walk around the cemetery there. As they read names from each of the family tombstones I would say, “That’s your great grandfather.” or “That’s your great great grandmother.” or “That’s your great uncle.” From a spot just a little further down than some of the older tombstones I heard one of the kids read a name. “Margaret P. Lankey” they called out.

“That’s Noody.” I said.

As soon as I heard her name I thought of the many good times with my fine aunt.

I also thought about the note my ninth grade teacher wrote in the upper right hand corner of my paper once she read it. “Please show this writing to Noody.” it said.

I still wish I had.

Stuart M. Perkins



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50 responses to “That’s Noody

  1. Ruth Nulph

    That was a tear jerker Stu. Noody indeed was a special person. We always loved staying at her place and visiting with her. She always made you feel at home and would tell us about the rest of the family. I enjoyed the times she made homemade ice cream for us. She always wanted to do something special when we visited. Thanks for renewing my memories of a special lady.

    • Ruth you’re right, she did make people feel right at home and I know she enjoyed planning something for when you guys came down. She liked to see everyone have a good time. Thanks for the comment and glad this reminded you of some good memories of a very fine woman. Stu

  2. Beautiful story. I relate. They call my grandma Cha-Cha. She means the world to me.

  3. pulled on a heart string, that article did – thanks.

  4. Brought back memories of my favourite uncle. We called him “Goldy” because his skin seem to shine bright like gold. Great piece and thanks for a trip down memory lane!

  5. What would you give to still have that paper… great story 🙂

  6. Brieuse Bernhard Piers-Gûdmönd

    I just got something in my eye – towards the end – a bit of grit or something.
    Great narrative.

  7. Love your story and the family you grew up with!

  8. She knows, Stuart. Beautiful tribute to a beautiful woman.

  9. I had a woman named Helen Dudley, or Huddy, as we all called her in my life growing up. She was my Noody. What a character! When she passed, I inherited her cast iron skillet. It is my most prized possession. Every time I fry chicken, or make corn bread, I think of Huddy. I was a little white girl and she was a light skinned black woman who invited me to sing in the choir at Esbie Baptist Church. My sister, Jane and I had more fun in that choir and hanging out at Huddy’s house after church. I wish everyone had a Noody or a Huddy.

  10. pi314chron

    Right on target as usual! You have a positive genius for involving the reader with your characters; I just wish I had known Noody like you did. She must have been a wonderful Aunt.


  11. We all know something, but Nobody knows everything. At least in your young life. How precious she was. Thanks for letting us in.

  12. Best story I’ve read in a long time.

  13. ly

    Thanks for sharing! Tears here remembering my Granny.

  14. Beautiful story, it’s a great honor to her and reminds me to be grateful for all my relatives, past and present.

  15. Beautiful story. Would have been great to know Nobody.

  16. Melvy

    We should all have a Noody in our lives.

  17. Loved it! Although my brain kept trying to insert a “b” in the middle of “Noody.”

  18. Pat Doutt

    I remember your Aunt Noody, but she was Mrs. Lankey to me. And my memory of her was that she was generous and kind because she gave me a ride every day one summer to my first summer job at the court house. Another good story, Stu.

  19. So, so sweet. And just for your FYI, in my family, we have a Nonnie.

  20. Every child needs someone like this in their life. For me it was my Grandmother. Thanks for sharing this very touching story.

  21. rubble2bubble

    I wipe a tear…and I shake my head. I already know about miracles in the ordinary. But at the end of this day, I find myself hitched up against your shoulder, in spirit, remembering Noody, too.

  22. Noody, just might be looking down smiling, because she loved your beautiful story. And, probably wondering just what the heck a “blog” is.

    Lovely story, her memory is in your heart!

  23. Amazing! Wish I met her. Love your story.

  24. Great story! Reminds me of special times with our family. We also live close to family so I hope that one day our children will also be able to have a healthy store of happy memories like these. Thanks for sharing!

  25. Stuart as usual your prose bring those memories of yours to life and like it did others it reminded me of one of those people in my life, my Aunt Bessie. We lived in the apartment up above 1st through 5th grade.I was a latchkey kid and everyday after school before my mom got home I would go down and visit with her and have a snack. She would listen to my chatter and I would do radio shows for her. She was actually my great aunt and she gave me that sense that I was someone interesting and worth listening too. Thanks for reminding me.

  26. Great story Stuart! Reminds me of my aunt so thank you for sharing. Nice job!

  27. Lovely story. I never had a Noody but I hope my kids do.

  28. You got me and I burst into tears. What a wonderful post

  29. Wonderful story! I can tell I’d love Noody too!

  30. Fantastic story. I love it because as I read it brought back memories from the people in my life. I suppose theres a Noody in all our lives. Thanks for the memories.

  31. merrysusanna

    Everyone should have a Noody and someone to honor her as you have done. Just love her!

  32. Coming from a large family myself, I know how important an ally is and remember how much of a role family plays towards our development .

  33. What a lovely story. Noody would love it! Your story brought back many memories from my childhood. Thanks for sharing.

  34. B

    Oh, that last line is so sad. I wish you had, too. At least you showed someone.

  35. dlankey

    Once again a great story! This one left me boo-hooing. I would love to be able to hear her stories again.

  36. Thanks, and as part of her family you knew her better than many! She did have some great stories. My favorites were the ones she had trouble finishing – because she was laughing too hard!

  37. Stuart, thanks for sharing Noody. I’ve embraced her right now as one of my own. You write so well. I appreciate you stopping by to say, “Hey.”

  38. Jan

    I’m sittin’ here sniffling….I miss her so…and I get to think of her daily-living in her house….I love that she got Granddaddy’s swing…Tuck & Helen were over today, laughing about your 5 cows story…Your writing hits the mark!!

  39. Wonderful shucking there Stuart.

  40. I had a grandmother who was the Noody in my life. Would we were all so fortunate. To the memory of all our Noodys!

  41. jlthomp2013

    Beautifully written. I’m a compulsive editor, and I found little that needed changing. Congrats for a job well done. Have you published yet in inspirational publications. I’m sure you could.
    I would love to have known Noody, as I’ve never had such a supportive figure in my own life. Everyone thought they were being supportive by criticizing, but that’s NOT Noody.

  42. Sharon Eshler

    And Noody always remembered each person’s birthday in our very large extended family – every year! A very loving “behind the scenes/no attention to myself” kind of person. Thanks for writing about her, Stu! Beautiful memories!

  43. Lovely, descriptive writing! I enjoyed reading your post.

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