Family Portraits: #2 – Auntie Mae

I don’t have a photo in my computer files of Auntie Mae, but this is me, my mom and her sister (the famous Aunt Eileen from Family Portrait #1) on the day of my youngest brother’s funeral in October, 2009. Still trying to follow the guidelines set out by The High Calling’s Community Writing Project – 500 words or less, rich in detail, describe a family member who influenced me during childhood.
Bird-like, slightly mischievous, eyes a-twinkle, heart afire, Mary (Mae) Thompson Alsup Nichols managed to leave a very large footprint, despite wearing a size four shoe. And she was proud of those feet, happy to tell you that she was among the select few who could purchase the shoes displayed in the store window. Because every shoe looks ever-so-much better in a size four, right?

Left motherless at age three, never to have children of her own, she ‘adopted’ her sister’s kids – my mother and her siblings. Mae had energy to spare, loved to laugh and was cute as a button, right up until she died at the age of 102. She married and buried two husbands, both of whom she adored, and lavished love on all the various children of all the various cousins in my extended family.

To this day, my 90-year-old mom and her 88 and 86-year-old siblings give thanks to God for Auntie Mae. Their parents worked full-time during the depression and were seldom home. But my grandmother’s kid sister and the two female cousins with whom she and Mae were raised – they were always available for comfort, fun and companionship. These three attended Angelus Temple and were fervent admirers of Aimee Semple MacPherson. When Mae married and moved across town, she attended The Church of the Open Door in downtown LA, but she never forgot the drama of the Temple.

And color? The brighter the better. She learned to crochet in her late 70’s and promptly began creating anything and everything imaginable. Afghans, sweaters, hats, novelties – I lost count of how many ‘dolls’ she created with crocheted skirts to cover the extra roll of TP on the back of the toilet. Unfortunately, she also went through a ‘neon’ phase. One year, she made coats and hats for my daughters in vibrating fluorescent colors so intense they never made it out of the closet, except for photos to send with thank you notes.

When I was five, I had my tonsils out in a local doctor’s office. Something went terribly wrong and I landed in the hospital for a week, fighting for life. When I was released, I went to Mae’s home, because it was closer to the hospital than our little 40’s house in the valley.  She cared for me as if I were her own little girl, bringing me ice cream at the demand of my bedside bell, encouraging me to talk gently through that ruined throat.

It was a two-week stretch of time that only we two shared. Even though I badly wanted to be in my own home, with my parents and brother and my own safe bed, I somehow knew Mae was special. The gift she offered with her kindness and care was an important one, one that breathed Jesus to me even before I could fully grasp who Jesus was. Mae truly loved the Lord. And she lived a gospel life while creating fun wherever she went.

Get a personal letter from Diana twice a month

Sign up for *More Wondering. . . * a monthly personal letter from Diana to you, available only to email subscribers. As thanks, receive a copy of Diana's new ebook,30 Ways of Aging Gracefully.

powered by TinyLetter

To receive blog posts in your inbox, sign up below.


  1. How nice to have a special photo of your mom and aunt and you altogether though it was no doubt a somewhat poignant occasion. I enjoyed reading about your Aunt Mae and wish I had one like her.

  2. Diana, you’ve written such a lovely tribute to Mae. Your story makes me wish I could have known her, too. Her sweetness and deeds are probably known to only you and your family, but what a choice saint she was, and God knows every one of her kindnesses. Thanks for sharing your story with us.


  3. Oh to leave such a legacy. She sounds so full of joy Diana.
    Your words have brought her to life.

  4. I’m inspired that you’ve continued on with the series, Diana. It makes me wonder if I should be doing the same.

    These portraits are word-gifts for your families … and of course, for the rest of us who step in through your cyberdoor.

    I got a chuckle out of the crocheted dolls. I remember now, seeing them on the backs of toilets and for sale at the church bazaars.

  5. Aunties leave special footprints, don’t they? Even if they are size 4…

    Diana, you’re the first person I’ve met who had tonsillectomy drama too.

  6. What a beautiful tribute to someone who sounds very special. And what a gift to you and your family she gave with her love.

    I’m delighted to have found you — thank you for dropping by my place. I was so thrilled to learn you came through a Tweet! never had that happen before that I know of 🙂 — ah, the power of social media.

    Thanks for a lovely read this morning. I shall be back!

  7. She learned to crochet in her 70s.

    I’m not a fan of learning to do something new at 47. But that’s living, you know? Seeing that there is always something to learn, value in trying.

    I think I like your Auntie Mae.

  8. I’m loving mischievous Mae who nursed you back to health. And those crocheted toilet paper covers–My grandma made those, too, and suddenly I’m transported to my grandmother’s bathroom. I can see it, the spare roll, covered with the crocheted lady.

    Thank you for the stories, Diana. They’re good for the soul.

  9. So happy you’ve shared those wonderful memories of your Aunt Mae with us. She sounds so special… not at all eccentric, full of love, life and energy.

  10. Sorry I am so late to say ‘thank you’ to each of you for stopping by. This has been fun to do – and surprisingly rich, both emotionally and spiritually. I’ve made a list now and it’s nearing 20! Think I’ll be at this for while. :>)

    My thanks to Jennifer and to Ann who sponsored this little project – and to Linda C. who inspired it. You all had a great idea!