Cranky Aunts and other Memories

18543_1252857814166_5455564_nNovember isn’t the same any more…at least in what is left of my memory bank. As soon as we finished our Thanksgiving dinner, which was eaten at the convenience of deer hunters, I always strapped on a pair of my brother’s old outgrown skates and tried to hop around branches and twigs inbedded in ice on a little piece of bog near our house. It was cold. There was usually snow on the ground..maybe not much, but a tracking snow for the hunters and enough for my old buckle boots flapping away to make a little trail.

October was the month for kicking leaves to see how high they would go. We had no leaves in our yard as there was nothing but the old apple tree complete with the old auto tire hanging for a swing.

But I digress. This time of year if I think back to Greenwood Center, my  mind goes to an early morning fog rising off Twitchell Pond and shivering til the sun came up to take the nip away. I was going to tell you about my cranky aunts…which probably is terribly unfair, now that I think of it…at my age.

I blame it on the fact I was brought up with three brothers, no other  girls in the neighborhood to play with except for one exceptional year and then she left after the one year.

My days were spent with my Uncle Louie ( the one with the sapphire eyes) . I turned the grindstone handle for him or watched as he meticulously piled the winter wood in a very artistic manner. I visited my Uncle Roy to see his latest carvings and needless to say, followed my father around when I was eight or nine years old. So I was more at ease with men then with women.

The two women who figured in my life were my mother, who was busy either working at home or at the mill and my dear little Grammy Martin, who shared her hen house duties with me, as well as snapping peas on her front porch.

So it came to pass, one day I was told that my Aunt “Vi” was moving back to live with Grammy. She and her husband were coming from Connecticut , which in my young mind, must be a million miles away. She was nice . I stood on the porch and watched her unpack box after box. I can imagine that drove her to distraction as finally she gave me a kewpie doll on a stick and I ran happily home with that. Our paths did not clash for about a year after that.

Grammy’s house didn’t seem the same. It had always been Louie, Grampa and Grammy and we got along very well, thank you. One thing remained constant. We still were carrying water from Gram’s to drink and cook with, so that one day I thought nothing of carrying the pail across the field and into Gram’s kitchen. W-e-l-l. I took one step into GRAM’s kitchen and a gawdawful screech came from the other side of the house.

“I just washed and waxed that floor and now you’re on it.” Frankly, our own floor at home was made of boards and we scrubbed it. Period. I had heard of wax on cars and skiis but on floors? I had no idea. Gram stood behind my aunt, wringing her hands. Now Gram and I had come a long way in my short life and no one was going to make her wring her hands. I reached down, touched the floor, brought my head up and said, “Your floor is just fine.” and proceeded to fill the pail and when it was full, I strutted out of GRAM’s house, head held high.

After leaving the water at home, I proceeded to pass Gram’s house to go visit my friend, Grace, and my aunt was still screeching about what kind of a daughter her brother had and I think the word “uncivilized” came into play, but at age 8 or 9, a good roll of my eyes sufficed.  After all these years, I can see this scenario in my mind as if it happened yesterday and I think that is how I learned throughout life…observe and learn( and be a little snarky at the same time, obviously).

Now, wait, there was another aunt who thought I could have gone to charm school and profited highly. My cousin , Blaine, was unfortunate enough to be born exactly one year after me. We both were photographed so many times, there could be a full length movie made of us. SO it came to pass, that on that precious day in February, I should leave my school desk and proceed up Bird Hill with cousin Blaine to have a birthday “dinner” with him. Aunt Mary, in all her goodness and kindness of heart, had the best intentions and I cannot tell you how many years we plodded up the hill. I was about the same age as the big floor wax eruption, so maybe it was just a bad year for me.

I remember the table being covered with food…remember our own table at home usually held the fare of fish sticks, deer meat, trout etc. We are talkng a banquet, in my eyes, topped off with a cake the size of the Eiffel Tower. I ate..and ate..and ate..the cake was served and Blaine and I went out to play until it was time to plod back down the hill to school. Suddenly through the open window, I heard, “Does that child ever eat at home? Where does she put it all? I have never seen anyone eat as much at one sitting as she did.”

Blaine apparently did not hear this, as he continued playing. I started feeling guilty. Maybe I did take too much. Maybe this, maybe that, so by the time we got back at our desks, my stomach was as taut as a trampoline. I managed to get through til the bus took us back home, but without saying a word to the parents, swore I would never go back. I was so ashamed.

Fast forward to the following year. I sit at the table, look at the towering display of food and take just enough to cover a small portion of my plate. Aunt Mary stands behind me saying , “My goodness, child, you eat like a bird. You have to have more than that to get you through this afternoon even.” It could have been the clash of the Martin temperment; hers of her generation; mine in my generation. I swore I would starve before taking one more morsel.  I didn’t take one morsel; I didn’t starve.

But what I did do was learn. I observed, ( got a little snarky and stubborn) but I learned. Most of my life I have learned how to get along in society by observing….and it all started with two cranky aunts….who, incidentally, were two precious friends when I finally grew up!