I’d like you to meet my mother’s sisters, my aunts, of whom Aunt Joan was the last one left. Having no children of their own, they showered us with love, their nieces and nephews, all five of us.
My three maiden aunts, Gertie, Millie, and Joan, lived in their father’s and mother’s house all their lives. Gertie, the eldest, died in the same room in which she was born. All three kept the same jobs all their lives.
Gertie worked in New York City and was an ace bowler: I wonder what happened to her trophy. She was fond of cross-country bus and train trips and a little skittish around animals. When she went to Australia, she declined an offer to cuddle a koala. Human children were more her speed. She often took us to New York–museums, the circus, the big department stores. But I had to be taken home early from the rodeo because one of the cow’s horns broke off and I couldn’t stop crying over it. The clowns in the circus kind of spooked me, too. I was much better off with dinosaurs.
As the firstborn, I was kind of a favorite of Aunt Millie’s. She was the secretary at our town’s high school, the voice you heard on the PA system every morning. The pastor at her Lutheran Church called her “our little ewe lamb.” It was a fitting nickname.
Ordinarily a very plucky traveler, she ruined her record by having a serious bout of claustrophobia inside the Great Pyramid.
The second eldest, Aunt Betty, was a nun and a scholar. What a mind she had! I wish she were still here, so I could learn from her. She could quote Horace, in Latin, as easily as I quote Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Aunt Florence, Joan’s twin, started out as a nurse and became a hospital administrator. She and my mother were the only married sisters. What a lot of good, long natters Patty and I used to have with her, on the telephone!
These four women went almost everywhere in the world, always bringing back a plethora of slides and souvenirs. Occasionally they traveled on ships that didn’t customarily take passengers. But I remember them best for the love they poured out on us.
One more anecdote:
My parents went out one night, when I was still a baby, and left me with my aunts at Grandma’s house. Grandma and Grandpa had just returned from their annual trip to Florida.
When my mother returned to pick up her baby, my aunts told her they’d put me to bed in the next room. But I wasn’t in that room. They’d put a doll in the bed, in my place–and something else. One of those grotesque carved coconuts from Florida. And when my mother turned on the light, expecting to see me, and saw this thing instead, she let out a scream you could’ve heard in Egypt.
Meek and mild, modest maidens–with a spot of mischief!