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.,,P and Associates 502 W. 15th Street Austin. Texas 78701 REALTOR “3′ Representing all types of properties in Austin and Central Texas Interesting & unusual property a specialty. 477-3651 oPEN MONDAYsATIRDAY 106 AND OPEN sl NDAY 10 .4 WATSON & COMPANY BOOKS Remembering Miss Huggins “More than preaching to us about religion, Miss Huggins made us feel it.” By Amy Johnson Commerce The week before she was supposed to leave Commerce and move to Tennessee Annie Louise Huggins died. Well, perhaps passed away would be a better way of saying it. She had been getting weaker and weaker, thinner and thinner, until it happened. In her sleep, I think. She lived with Lib, her sister who was a women’s athletics teacher .at East Texas State University. They lived in a red brick house with white trim on Bois D’Arc Street. Before that, they lived in a more Street, a small and squatty house, much more like Miss Huggins than the other. Miss Huggins was short, fat, and had silver-white hair. In about fifth grade, I started seeing her eye-to-eye. She wore white thick-lensed glasses. She liked butterflies and had them everywhere. In pastels, mostly. Butterflies on a brooch. In a round of glass \(like the kind filled with snow that you had butterflies on placemats and even on a big patent leather purse. For my high school graduation, she gave me a purple butterfly stick pin. But she was neither delicate nor frail. When she called on the phone \(often to try to talk you into lighting the candles at away to understand her. She always wore pumps \(I remember most vividly white patent-leather ones with a white You couldalways tell when she was coming. “If you’re going to make a mistake, make it loud enough so I can hear you,” she used to say to us, forcefully and insistently. She was the choir director at the First United Methodist Church in Commerce. A single, elderly \(none of us woman, she was more than just a choir director. On Wednesday afternoons right after school, we used to have choir practice with Miss Huggins. When practice was over, she gave us a treat, something that had been hidden in her big purse. The most special treat was Goo-Goos: a round mound of marshmallows, chocolate, and peanuts made in Nashville by a company one of her relatives started. When I got older and sang in a quartet in high school, she served us Graham craclers with Kraft marshmallow spread and peanut butter washed down with a punch made with bright pink grenadine. For special occasions, or just when we found the box, she brought out dried apricots that were hidden away in a wooden crate marked “Neiman-Marcus.” More than preaching to us about religion, Miss Huggins made us feel it. “I love you all,” she’d say often and then peck us on the cheek with her pinkpainted lips. She made us think that everyone in the church loved us at least half as much as she did and that they wouldn’t mind if we made a mistake while playing the autoharp or guitar in front of the church. And so we learned to perform. “Plan a party,” she used to tell us while we put on our white gowns, sometimes with plastic holly or red bows pinned to them. The party planning was designed to keep us from fidgeting and being bored during the sermon. She even told us how to hold the hymnals upright just under our noses so that we would “project.” Always one for symbols and ornaments, Miss Huggins started the tradition of the Christmas tree at our church. A big, fragrant cedar, at least 15 or 20 feet high, was cut and placed just to the right at the front of the church. The wild-looking cedar was then covered with white styrofoam ornaments with gold beads, each ornament a representation of part of the Christmas story. I can’t say that she was a mother or a grandmother figure for us, although some of that was there. She was too concerned with having fun her own and ours to be maternal. She didn’t seem lonely a bit, but I often wondered why she didn’t marry \(it seemed to me the There came a time when Miss Huggins quit teaching singing at Bible school. I think she and it disagreed with each other. Stubbornly, she wanted to do things her way. The Bible school directors had other ideas. I left Commerce before Miss Huggins really started aging. Maybe when you come back home, changes seem more drastic \(you’ve missed the gradual got thicker. Once, I had to walk up and say, “It’s Amy, Miss Huggins.” Eventually, she couldn’t see well enough to read the notes on the music. She quit directing choir at the church. And then she died. Passed away, that is. Observer contributor Amy Johnson is spending the summer at home in Commerce before enrolling this fall in Harvard Law School. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19