Monday, January 21, 2013

Go Tell Aunt Rhody

My Christmas gift bibbies have a different design.  Instead of side-by-side bib pockets, these pockets are back to back.  The small one in front is perfect for my cell phone; the one in back is larger and deeper.  Retrieving anything from the back pocket requires much rooting around in the depths between my bosoms (my mother's word), sometimes with both hands, elbows pointing skyward.  It's laughable.  It always makes me think of my Aunt Kate.

I actually had an Aunt Rhody.  Truth be told, her name was Kate Rhoda and she was my great-aunt.  Aunt Kate was a force to reckon with.  Tall, spare, iron-straight spine, and deaf, a widow without children, she was as close to a matriarch as our family had when I was a kid.  When word was sent that Aunt Kate was coming to visit, my mother and/or her sisters, Aunt Hilda and Aunt Ruth, went into a frenzy of cleaning because Aunt Kate was of the white-glove inspection sort.  I think Aunt Kate knew what havoc her visit would cause and that's why she always announced a pending visit in advance.  She was strict, but not mean.  Back in the day, hearing aids were powered by very large batteries.  Aunt Kate wore her battery in a bag sewn into her slip, and it required frequent adjustments; hence the reference to the bibbies.  Aunt Kate lived with her brother, Uncle Charlie, and his wife Lena in what was called a California bungalow.  I was nearly an adult before I figured out that Aunt Kate and Uncle Charlie weren't the couple.  I thought Lena, an unassuming little woman who stood in Kate's shadow (as did Charlie, now that I think of it), was the housekeeper and never dreamed she was Charlie's wife.  It must have been difficult to be Lena in that household.  Aunt Kate learned to drive when she was in her fifties and she was a terror on the roads, but she loved to drive and no one was brave enough to tell her she was doing anything wrong.  Aunt Kate, probably in her seventies when I was a kid, grew her own vegetables in a pin-neat garden in her backyard, made her own sauerkraut, and her baking skills were legendary.  I don't think she'd ever bought a loaf of bread in her life.  Aunt Hilda, on a visit to Kate's, was given a pan of cinnamon rolls to take to my mother.  Hilda ate them; she couldn't help herself.  Knowing the rules of protocol, she then had to call Mother, confess her crime, and beg Mother to tell Aunt Kate how good they were so Aunt Kate wouldn't find out.  That was a bargaining chip my mother held over her sister for years.  Going to Aunt Kate's house meant Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes and a reminder of good manners.  I'd been taught to say Ma'am and Sir, not to interrupt a grown-up conversation, not to touch anything, not to run in the house, all enforced at Aunt Kate's.  I didn't need the reminder; Aunt Kate was always kind to me, but she was intimidating.  She lived well into her nineties and remained that force to the end.  I don't think anyone ever told my Aunt Rhody anything she didn't want to hear.

It's about time to get dressed and load up my bibby pockets.  Aunt Kate would be so proud.

1 comment:

Kathryn said...

For me, something enjoyable is always more fun when shared, and since my father's computer is at Staples Urgent Care, I just read the blog aloud so that we could both hear...and we laughed together at your wonderful familial tales. You DO know that you are good enough to have your works on the shelves at Vroman's, don't you???? (For those of you reading this comment from around the can Google Vroman's - it's a Southern California landmark for sure!)