That’s Noody

This is a repost of a piece from a few years ago. I don’t know what it is that causes someone to be on your mind several times throughout several days, but she’s been on mine quite a bit lately. I wanted her to be on yours too.

That’s Noody

Signaling us to quiet down, my ninth grade English teacher rapped a pencil against the top of her desk. She then gave us our next assignment. We were to write a paper about someone we respected. Someone influential to our thinking and whose character we admired. The paper was due the next week and should be three pages long.

She rapped the pencil several more times to silence the groans.

We had the rest of class time to discuss the assignment and choose who we would write about. After deciding, we were to write our choices on the blackboard. Since the person could be anyone, from any point in time, many chose religious, historical, or political figures. After the last student went to the blackboard, the teacher read all of the choices aloud.

She went slowly down the list reading off names of famous figures like George Washington, Mahatma Gandhi, and Neil Armstrong. She paused when she got to my chalk-written choice.

“Margaret Nelson Perkins Lankey?” 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. It didn’t matter. I come from a large family and almost everyone had a nickname. That’s how it was done. Extended family lived all around me but I was lucky having Noody right next door. She and my uncle were as much a part of everyday life as my parents and sisters.

Noody had an old picnic table under her tree where she did everything from shelling butter beans to cleaning fish to cutting watermelon. When I saw her sitting there I’d walk over to visit. If she said “Let’s go sit in the swing.” I knew I was in for a treat. I loved hearing old family stories and she loved telling them. She taught me to remember where I came from while never forgetting where I wanted to go.   

She could drive a pickup, haul firewood, or cut grass all while holding a handful of cookies to snack on. Once, using a hoe, Noody cornered a snake near her shed. Feeling she was perfectly lined up for a quick decapitation, she raised the hoe over her head and came down full force. She missed, leaving a hole in the ground so deep it took a shovel-full of dirt to fill it. She giggled. Do your best and if it doesn’t go as you hoped, laugh it off.

Many snowy winters we cousins took sleds to a nearby hill and Noody would come along for the fun. She took us roller skating on occasion, showing us up by strapping on skates and heading into the rink like a pro. At the family place on the Chesapeake Bay, while other adults sat in the shade, Noody joined us kids in the water. She taught me how to float on my back, and that working hard may be necessary, but playing hard is just as important.

I once stayed with out of town relatives for some summer fun. When I returned home I met Noody in the swing to tell her about it. She asked if I sent them a “bread and butter note”. I told her no but didn’t tell her I had no idea what one was. She went inside and brought back some of her stationery. There at the picnic table she helped me write a proper thank you note. She taught me that and many other lessons over the years.

Not just a mentor, she was also an ally. Before my thirteenth birthday I saw an ad in a magazine for a tiny incubator and six quail eggs. Mama, not thrilled to add to the animals I already had, gave an instant “No”. Logically, I went to see Noody. I told her I wanted to try hatching eggs. Noody read the ad, put her hand on her hip and said, “Run bring me my checkbook.” With help from Noody, my uncle built an enclosure and the quail I hatched were part of my life for the next few years. She always told me if you want something bad enough, you can find a way.  

Many of my relatives are buried at the church near home. The same church most of my extended family attended, and many still do. When my kids were younger I took them for a walk around the cemetery there. As they read a name from each of the family tombstones I would say, “That’s your great grandfather.” or “That’s your great grandmother.” or “That’s your great uncle.” From a spot a little further down than some of the older tombstones, my daughter read a name.

“Margaret Nelson Perkins Lankey?” she called out.

“That’s Noody.” I said.

When I heard her name I remembered the years of good times with my fine aunt. I also remembered what my ninth grade teacher wrote in the upper right hand corner of my paper.

“Please show this writing to Noody.” it said.

I still wish I had.

Stuart M. Perkins


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88 responses to “That’s Noody

  1. Aww. She seems like an incredible person. Some people have that charm and they tend to live in our hearts and minds long after they are gone. I wish that you could have shown it to her too.

  2. Given what you have written, my guess is that Noody has already read it several times. Good stuff, Stuart.

  3. I think I read this the first time around, but it was nice to read it again. It brought tears to my eyes. Everyone needs a Noody.

  4. Lovely post. Made me cry, as a number of your posts do because they reach into my heart & bring out a memory or a person of my own.

    Thank you …

  5. How wonderful to have such an ally in your life. Sweet story. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Ann Hendrix

    As a woman who never birthed a child, I have made a point of writing about the women in my life who were not remembered on Mother’s Day but contributed greatly to my being. The community of “aunts” who teach lessons about love, art and acceptance are too easily forgotten. Not nobody. Part of the fabric of a good community.

  7. I’m in awe of the magic you bring to the written word. Thank you Stuart, you always leave your readers wanting more. Bravo.

  8. How wonderful to have a Noody in your life. Thanks for sharing her with us.

  9. Perfect. What a great memory for you and tribute for Noody.

  10. Diane Perkins

    I so enjoyed reading this story about Noody again. It’s such a nice tribute. We think of her often. She was such a hard worker and always a care giver. I always remember her as kind and accepting. She made a difference in many lives. And yes, the older generation of the Perkins’ family members had interesting nicknames.

  11. Noody represents for many of us, I suspect, a special person(s) who complemented our parents and who helped us to fly with confidence into the realms of adulthood.

  12. Beautiful. There are so many people who’ve made up the fabric of my life whom I wish I had told… Thanks so much for this.

  13. Stuart, this was such a lovely story. You take us joyfully back to the safe places in our childhoods and shine the light of God’s grace in a fallen, sometimes very grim, world. Noody sounds like a lovely person. Like the rest of your readers, I’m very sorry I never got to meet her.

    Keep up the good work!!!! Another excellent job!

  14. Some people become the cornerstone of our personalities without us even knowing it.

  15. What a lovely story! Thank you for sharing it. I suspect Noody knows right now how much she meant to you.

  16. shann273

    I wish I had an Aunt Noody! And the rest of your childhood with all the great stories! Love this so much!

  17. Wonderful writing. Yes, you had a fine Aunt.

  18. What a beautiful relationship you had with your Aunt. So very special.

  19. Loved your story of Noody. How many people are fortunate enough to have someone like that as a role model? Not many, I suspect. She must have been very special.

  20. lt117

    I would have loved her!
    Remarkable woman.
    Lucky you.

  21. She was your family treasure as you were hers.

  22. Noody sounded like quite a force and a remarkable influence in your life. What a delightful story about a wonderful relative.

  23. I’m so glad you reposted this. Noody sounds like wonderful fun and a good teacher of many things. Most of all she loved you so. She is one of a kind.

  24. A wonderful story. The ending, the last line, “I wish I had.” Hurts the heart a little 🙂

  25. What a wonderful story! Everyone should be so fortunate as to have a Noody in their life! ❤

  26. Alan Malizia

    Stuart, as always, a joy to read.
    There are those who think more of themselves than they should. And there are others who think less of themselves than they should. That is the difference between the egoist and the humble. We can learn from each. But only one is worth taking the lesson from. I think you know that Noody was a worthy teacher.
    Don’t lament having not shown your essay to your aunt. In posting it here you have proved that honors have no expiration date.

  27. That last part about showing it to her gave me chills! What a beautiful person!

  28. jaym

    Lovely read.

  29. This is a lovely story!!! ☺

  30. You must have a warm childhood with her…. it’s important to have such memories from that were a part of our beginnings… 😇 this is a beautiful post, thank u for sharing it. 😊💛

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  32. Pingback: That’s Noody – WEB-WONDERINGS

  33. We all need an aunt Noody in our lives.

  34. Everyone needs a Noody!!! My daughter is blessed to have a Noody next door ❤️ she’s quickly become my Noody too (always a coffee and a cookie on hand)

  35. What a beautiful tribute to an amazing influential lady. I hope I can be that sort of person to the children in my life.

  36. Listen carefully, and cherish the memories we have. The ones we make and the ones which are shared with us.

    Thank you for sharing this story. 😊

  37. It’s a lovely piece of your memory 🙂

  38. A compelling story, and you have so many of them. If you’d be willing to share some with Our American Stories, please check out their website. They are such a wonderful antidote to today’s negativity! You can connect with them directly, or send an email. I’ve recorded for them, no pay, I just believe in what they’re doing!

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