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in a house situated on 100 acres of Olliff family land in the Rosemary Community — just off what is now Sugar Road.

My aunt was an entrepreneur and worked from home before it was “a thing.” She cut and styled hair for women in the community in a room adjoining her house. When we would visit, her beauty shop was like a magnet to my sister and me. We loved climbing in the styling chair, looking at all the colored rollers in the sink, sitting underneath the big, clunky hair drying hoods, and watching her tend to her customers. She worked and talked, and talked and worked — constantly moving on her feet.

“Mama started doing hair in the 1960s,” her daughter, Martha Ann, told me on the phone this week. “She had worked at Twin City Manufacturing and Metter Manufacturing [setting collars on shirts], and of course, she helped Daddy a lot with farming, but then in the sixties, she decided to go to beauty school in Swainsboro and learn to do hair.”

As for me, I remember begging her to cut my hair when I was about 12. Aunt Sybol didn’t want to cut my long blond locks. She was concerned I wouldn’t like the haircut and that I would get upset with her. I persisted, and she gave in. She trimmed a tiny amount from the ends of my stringy hair, whirled me around to the mirror, and said, “Here you go. Curl the ends under a bit and you’ll have a perfect page boy.” It was the first time I ever had a real haircut or style with an actual name.

And Aunt Sybol could cook! Going to her house for supper was a treat, and her desserts were the stuff of legends.

“Don says that Mama has about 100 recipes for pound cake,” Martha Ann laughed, referring to her husband’s comments. “But I think most people remember her multi-layer caramel cake. It was really something!”

I’m pretty sure I remember eating a slice of it in her kitchen one time and feeling like I had died and gone to heaven to be with Jesus.

Six years ago, we celebrated her 94th birthday at Rosemary Primitive Baptist Church, where she’s been a member almost all of her life. And in just a few days, we will return to Rosemary Primitive Baptist Church to commemorate her 100th.

Dear Aunt Sybol, You’ve been a bright beacon of love and kindness for me through the years. Your presence has made my life infinitely richer, and I am so thankful for you. I wish you joy on your birthday. Love, Little Amber

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