At the end, from a rare height.


When my brother and I were young, we often spent weeks at a time with either our grandmother or our great-aunt. I only realized a few years ago that our parents probably did that so they didn't go completely insane.

Time spent at our great-aunt and -uncle's house was always a good time. I especially liked the way her scrambled eggs at breakfast were always just a little runny, even if the cream of wheat was a bit grainy and unsweetened. At night she would fix me a bread-and-butter sandwich, something my mother would never in a million years have done. My brother enjoyed warming syrup and butter together and dipping strips of bread into it. We usually went to bed pretty happy.

Uncle Phil always, always had a bag of M&Ms waiting for me when we visited. He'd keep it on top of the refridgerator, pretend they weren't there, and I'd pretend I wasn't waiting for them, and then he'd get a little smile and bring them down and pour me a whole placemat full of them, it seemed. I never even liked M&Ms any other time, but from him, they were pretty awesome.

As I said, Uncle Phil was from Mississippi. Any 'ir' or 'ur' in a word was automatically an 'oi.' You may have heard this before. So one morning, my brother was up before me, and sitting on the front porch poking around for bugs with a stick, and as I trudged down the hallway I was just in time to hear Uncle Phil grouse, "Boy, get outta that doit!" Clearly, we laughed all day about it and still laugh to this day, if one of us mentions it.

The backyard was a very nice size, with an old shed and brick barbecue pit for me to daydream over, and a big tree that my brother attempted to summit time and again to no avail. We rolled around in the grass and got itchy. We discovered a huge, mutant ant that he matter-of-factly told me was a 'granddaddy ant' and proceeded to, of course, poke with a big stick. We begged to eat lunch on the old picnic table.

After dinner when the sun was going down we'd sit on the front porch and listen to the cicadas whirring in the trees, a sound that still soothes me and takes me back to better days. My brother and I didn't know it then, but we were living life in a different rhythm, one that the former generations knew well, and to whom watching the sunset and talking about nothing in general made the most sense in the world.


We loved to watch TV, of course. Soaps took priority. Young and the Restless, Bold and the Beautiful. My poor brother got as hooked on them as I did. We also watched The Price is Right faithfully and even kept score (though I can't remember how or why). Channel 4 was the news station of choice, and in the evenings it was shows like Beauty and the Beast and Murder, She Wrote.

My brother and I played with our toys, too. A lot. We read comic books on the guest bed where we slept nights, and devised numerous action sequences with our He-Man and C.O.P.S. (remember that cartoon?) action figures. One afternoon my brother discovered that I had placed Superman on top of She-Ra in a suggestive way. He immediately grabbed them and ran to our great-aunt. "Look what she did!!"

"So?" she replied without missing a beat. "Don't your parents do that, too?"

The idea of that was not a good one for me at that age, but I was very happy that she had saved me from a TON of fun-making.

Above all, we laughed a lot. Our great-aunt was a very, very funny lady. Though she knew how to scold and shame, those moments always vanished before long in favor of the greatest, happiest atmosphere a kid staying with two old folks could ask for.

There's a peculiar light in that guest bedroom. The windows are boarded with quaint blinds that are rarely open, and dainty pink window curtains fall to the middle. The sunlight coming through those curtains creates an alternately rosy and golden glow in the room that isn't bright but warm, and feels like the past; as if beyond the window lies a field of wheat and a neighboring farmhouse, and folks headed to town to the soda shop and the nickleodeon.

There's just something about the past, isn't there.


Liz said...


Epoem said...

Is that her street number?

Life is not fun sometimes. ((( )))

I wonder if we realize the impact we ourselves have on other peoples lives? I never think about others looking back on memories I helped them collect. I don't think I could ever be what some people have been for me.

But I imagine your great-aunt held memories of time spent with you, especially through the week until you came again to see her. How wonderful to have that time the past couple of years.

Don said...

I missed this post the first time around, and it is lovely. What a gift to have such good times in your memory bank. Also, it's nice to have a brother to reminisce with. (Or fellow bloggers to gaze at your past through your words.)