The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Aunt Elva's Birthday Party

By Ivalien Hylton Belcher © 1986

Issue: June, 1986

Samuel Howell and Elva Hylton Howell, in their courting days.Samuel Howell and Elva Hylton Howell, in their courting days.Here in the Blue Ridge, families still take time for birthday parties and reunions. Things of this nature tend to draw families closer. On April 5th, there was a surprise birthday party for a very special lady, Elva Hylton Howell. She is 82 years old and stays busy all the time. Sweet, loving, caring, sincere, neat and trim are just a few of the characteristics of this lovely lady. You would have to see her smile in person to really see how sweet and kind it is. I know - because Elva Hylton Howell is my aunt (my Dad's sister).

The party had been in the planning stage for weeks and was to start at noon on a Saturday and last until - until everyone decided to go home.

Getting Aunt Elva to the social hall was presenting a problem. On this particular day, she simply did not plan on going anywhere, but was home cooking. Granddaughter Janet went by the house to pick her up, telling Aunt Elva they were going to a yard sale in the community. Aunt Elva just kept on cooking.

Meanwhile at the party, everything was ready. Children and their families, relatives, friends, and neighbors anxiously awaited. The social hall was beautifully decorated. Tables covered with simple white cloths, candles, vases of apple blossoms, bridal wreath and forsythia gave a warm atmosphere.

One table was specially decorated. It had a vase of golden Easter Lillie's brought from the old home place especially for Aunt Elva. There were stacks of family albums and framed photographs brought by different family members.

A special chair awaited Aunt Elva beside the table holding a three-tier cake topped with real flowers. A picture of her and Uncle Sam in their courting days rested there with a red rose in the background. On the wall, grandchildren put big letters spelling out, "We Love You Grandma." The entrance door sported a straw hat, a symbol of a mountain lady.

Elva Hylton Howell in her. Wedding Dress.Elva Hylton Howell in her. Wedding Dress.By this time it was one o'clock and everyone was on pins and needles - and hungry. Where are Aunt Elva and Janet? Comments were made like, "I bet she's out in the garden...She's probably cooking...Hey! I bet she's making fried pies... What in the world will we do if she doesn't show up?"

By this time, it's 1:15 and guess what? Here comes Janet and Aunt Elva is with her. Sighs of relief can be heard. When asked what they had been doing, it was just like everyone thought. Aunt Elva was so busy, Janet had a hard time getting her to leave the house. Of course, she had to finish up all her cooking and stuff before going to what she thought was a yard sale!  The door opens, enters Aunt Elva, applause is heard and she stands smiling trying to take everything in. Grandchildren escorted her to the special chair and pinned a blue and pink corsage at her wrist. A niece wrote a special poem entitled, "Aunt Elva." Everyone there came by to greet her with hugs, kisses and words of appreciation.

Food was plentiful, as always, here in the mountains. Fellowship and talk of family and special memories flow freely. Aunt Elva opened lots of birthday presents. Before the evening was over, her sister-in-law came up from North Carolina. This lady was in her 90's, and her being able to attend made the party complete.

That evening, as family, friends and neighbors departed, all agreed it was the end of a perfect day.

As for me, I really enjoyed the day because I love all my family so much. They are so precious and add so much to my life. But I can tell you, I was really worried that Aunt Elva wouldn't find time to leave the house for anything that Saturday.

Now that the party is over, let me tell you a bit about this lovely person.

Elva Hylton Howell was born 82 years ago to Albert and Elaine Hubbard Hylton of the Meadows of Dan area. Her childhood and part of her married life were spent in the Mountain View neighborhood

The first time Aunt Elva saw Samuel (Sam) Howell, she claimed him for her own that day. He was wearing knee pants and came by with his parents. Sam came to the house to borrow a bucket to water the horses. Aunt Elva was in the chicken house peeking through the window. Aunt Elva says, "From the time I saw Sam as a little boy in knee pants, he was mine and I claimed him!"

When she was old enough, Aunt Elva and Uncle Sam were married at her home by Mr. Sol Hylton. Her sister got married the same time and they had a double wedding.

Aunt Elva and Uncle Sam became the parents of five children, three girls and two boys. All are still living. Uncle Sam passed away a few years ago.

Now, Aunt Elva lives alone in a neat white house in Patrick Springs. Although there are lonely times, she doesn't let any grass grow under her feet.

Aunt Elva is a great cook with that special touch. She can take a bowl of lettuce, cut a green onion into it, add a little vinegar and makes it tasty. One day last summer when I was there, she was making fried apple pies. There were so many you would have thought there was a "working" or barn raising in the neighborhood. Aunt Elva said, "Well, I just thought someone might come by. You know how I love to cook."

Aunt Elva stays busy in summer with flowers, gardening and canning. In a free moment she braids a rug while sitting for a few minutes. The church plays a major role in her life. Not only the grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren adore her, but neighbors and the pastor of the church speaks fondly of her, saying, "We really enjoy her."

Family ties are important. Love and warmth brings families closer. Aunt Elva radiates love wherever she goes. Isn't it wonderful to have family like this?