Martha Dickinson Bianchi remembers her Aunt Emily Dickinson

Excerpted from: Martha Dickinson Bianchi, Emily Dickinson Face to Face (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1932), 45-46.

Sometimes Aunt Lavinia would go sleigh-riding in my place with my brother Ned or my father of a  winter’s afternoon, and I would slip over by the narrow path walled in by snowdrifts to stay with Aunt Emily. She would perhaps be by the dining-room fire, or better still up in her own room, forever associated for me with the odor of hyacinths, for the way of a bulb in the sunshine had an uncanny fascination for her, their little pots crowding all four window-sills to bring a reluctant spring upon the air. From the first prick of the green above the earth she detected every minute sign of growth.

There I would find her reading or writing, while the slow glow of the open Franklin stove added another deceptive hint of spring warmth. And although I was but seventeen then, we talked of serious or imaginative things—situations in books—or wondered about the future, gravely comparing our absurdly unequal conclusions—without a sign on her part of the crudity of mine. It was all over in a flash, just as it had been when I was left with her a child of five. No matter what lie the clock told about an hour or an hour and a half, those returning sleighbells jangling in brought me back from ‘that little time upon enchanted ground.’

Once in that happy place I repeated to Aunt Emily what a neighbor had said—that time must pass very slowly to her, who never went anywhere-and she flashed back Browning’s line:

                             Time, why, Time was all I wanted!

Another exciting line of his, quoted by her in the face of domestic complications, with her pet gesture of bravado, was:

                             Who knows but the world may end tonight?

—as if for her part she wished it would—dared it to—would like to see it do it!

She was always sweetly welcoming, though any interruption must have cut in on that time she so wanted; for Aunt Emily was busy, always busy. When she read, she was next busiest to when she wrote.