Copyright 2008, Linda Mae Dennis

All rights reserved

Greatest Aunt

Auntie was old. She was thirteen years older than Grandma, and Grandma was old.

Since Auntie was old, all the kids had to be on their best behavior when we visited. Auntie should not be disturbed by loud noises and rambunctious activities. Auntie did not like badly behaved children. These concepts were drilled into us. There was no question about how to act around Auntie.

Auntie lived by herself in a city that was halfway between our house and Grandma’s. The water tower in Auntie’s town looked like a big olive-green doorknob. Dad would give the warning, “Look for the doorknob,” and all the kids would pile over to one side of the car to try to catch the first glimpse.

As we drove up, Auntie would be watching for us from the window. Her yard was surrounded by a short, white, picket fence. Her house was filled with all kinds of wonderful things.

Auntie’s dishes were all beautiful, expensive china, but none of them matched. The bureau was filled with teacups and saucers from all over the world. There was a photograph of a younger Auntie as a member of a Championship Hockey Team. A collection of little silver spoons rested in a drawer, and there was a story to go with each one. Auntie had an original Cupie doll that she would bring out, but it wasn’t to play with. Her oven mitts were blue dragons with big googly eyes. A bright pink satin, down comforter that smelled of lavender covered Auntie’s bed. Laying on it was the ultimate luxury.

The pantry floor in Auntie’s house held a trap door to the basement. Other stairs led to the attic that served as a guestroom. Small windows at either end illuminated the slanted ceiling and narrow floor. Between the unfinished joists on either side of the floor, was gravel.

Sometimes we would take Auntie with us to Grandma’s for a visit. Auntie always insisted on sitting in the back seat with the kids. She would laugh with us, and play any of numerous car games. The games were often interrupted because if you saw a white horse you could make a wish. Of course, we knew that, but Auntie added that if you wanted the wish to stick, you had to spit into one hand and then mash it with the other fist. Her delightful demonstration of the technique certainly raised my mother’s eyebrows.

Auntie had a big black purse, and inside it was a small box of humbugs. Humbugs are brown, peppermint-flavored hard candy. Auntie took them to aid her digestion, but she always had plenty to share. They were rather strong, and no one ever wanted more than one, but they were candy.

Auntie had snow white hair and freckles. She wore a hair net dotted with tiny, colored glass beads that would reflect as colored spots all over the ceiling of the car. You could put your little hands on her velvety, powder-soft cheeks, and from behind her bifocals, her bright eyes would smile into your soul.