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Great aunts

Posted on Friday, October 22, 2010 in family, Me

I’m not only a great-aunt. I am a great-great aunt. With all those greats I should be a fantastic aunt. But I doubt that I am. But I’m probably as good as my own great-aunts were.

Great Aunt BlancheAunt Blanche
She had a home made doll’s dress cover for her toilet paper that she kept on the back of the toilet. That’s about all I remember about her. She died just before she hit 100 years old. I don’t do anything for my toilet paper and I’m not even 50. So I guess she wins. I named my first vehicle—a yellow Ford pickup truck—after her. I’m not sure why now. And both Ethiopian bread and mullein leaves remind me of the fabric used for that strange doll/toilet-paper-cover dress.

Aunt Ivy
In my child’s mind, she was one strange lady. An ancient and strange lady who always sent me white socks for Christmas. Always. The only good thing about this was that Mom and Dad let me open her gift on the night before Christmas Eve. It was a Christmas tradition. I only give Christmas presents to my nieces who I know best. I almost never give gifts to the next generation, although I do put some money into their college accounts. So she might trump me here. As far as I know she gave all her nieces socks for Xmas or stockings if they were older.

Not her actual glass eye.

I recall visiting Aunt Ivy a few times a year. The visit got creepy as soon as we stopped at her house. As you walked up to her door and it got dark. She must have had large trees, but all I remember is the sun vanishing. Then there she was with only one breast and a fake eye. And this eye did not fit her. Sometimes it was covered with gunk. Mom told me later that she had bought the eye via mail order. My house and my eyes are not scary. OK, I do have all those skulls that line my sidewalk, but that’s not creepy. It’s eccentric. And all my own body parts are pretty normal.

Aunt Ivy always greeted me and my sister with an offering of candy. It was usually M & Ms in a bowl—a single clump of M & Ms. They were so old the sugar had started to turn a little gray. I think we ate them, anyway, just out of a sense of obligation. I don’t have any candy in my house unless it’s left-over Halloween candy. But I never remember I have it, so I think I win for not offering any to young visitors who don’t come dressed in costumes.

Great Aunt IvyThere was nothing to do at Aunt Ivy’s house. My sister and I sat on the floor in the darkness caused by all the plants that surrounded and covered her windows and we played Chinese checkers. I became quite good at the game and still enjoy it. On the floor was a piece of wood that had some sort of sentimental value, a bouncy ball you couldn’t play with because of all the antiques everywhere, and a couch shell. I have video games. And my husband had drums. I win here.

I recall arriving once around a meal time and she had a table set for what seemed like several people. There was meat and a couple of vegetables, some other stuff, and a custard pie. I remember the pie because I love custard pie, but I don’t think she offered me any. She had an overly large sink in her kitchen that maybe had a pump for water. I don’t recall that clearly, but I do know that she had a metal dipper at the sink and I got to drink water out of it. To my mind it was just like the dipper Cinderella offered to the Prince. I don’t live up to this mystery and wonder with my tiny galley kitchen built in the 50s.

She used to talk about the Youngstown Reunion. I had never heard of an entire town having a reunion. I didn’t even bother attending any of my high school reunions. (BTW, the IL HomeTownLocater website gives this description of the town: Youngstown is a community or populated place (Class Code U6) located in Warren County at latitude 40.661 and longitude -90.617.)

At some point I think she had a bathroom put in just under the stairs where a closet had been. That’s what I always see in my mind when I read “water closet.” I think I might have used it once. But if so, I don’t think I would have had the courage to shut the door all the way. The only danger in my bathroom is the cat’s water dish.

Aunt Ivy once traveled to Arizona and gave me a turquoise necklace when she returned. I’ve gone to many more interesting places and haven’t given nieces of nephews anything. But I have played with all my great nieces and nephews, at least once. Except the third one just recently born.

I’d give myself more credit for this if it wasn’t true that adults spend a lot more time directly interacting with children than they used to. Mom used to talk about an uncle of hers who obviously loved having kids around but could only express it by saying “Well, well, well” when he saw them and hiding bananas in the house for them to find.

All-in-all I think I compare favorably to my own great-aunts. I have the better name by far. I’m known as Auntie Winkle. Cool, huh?

I’m sure my sister will comment on all the wonderful things about Aunt Ivy that I didn’t learn about until later. Like how she always attended the Youngstown Reunion for a town that shut down. And about her nemisis—”that Jessie Woods.” And how she planted by the moon.

  1. Beautiful. I don’t know if I’ll ever achieve great aunt status, but I love the flavor of your memories.

  2. Thanks, Maureen. It really helps when your sister is 20 years older than you, and your brother 19 years.

  3. K – You bear a definite resemblance to Aunt Blanche! Through the eyes, I think.

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