Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Great Aunt is a Fat Lady

When I was little, the definition of a great aunt was a fat lady. I had a great aunt on each side of my family who weighed over 300 lbs. Both qualified for the circus. Now don't get me wrong, I adored them. In fact, in good southern tradition each one of my daughters bares one of their names. Flora Katherine aka Aunty and Virginia Smoak aka Aunt Jeannie. Both of these ladies had personalities as large as they were, especially my Aunty.

My father was reared by three women: his widowed mother Mary Margaret (Mamie), her sister Flora Katherine (Fode), and his much older sister Katherine (my Aunt Kat). These women adored him, and he could do no wrong. Mamie and Fode were a pair, as different as night and day. Mamie, my grandmother, was a proud southern lady, always properly dressed. She was not uptight and enjoyed life, but she did not live on the edge. She did not even get close.

Aunty lived on the edge and loved every minute of it. And more than that, loved to taunt her sister. She was a cigarette smoking (Salems - I can see them now), cussing, card playing, fun loving woman. And this was when I knew her when she was well into her 60's. God knows what she was like when she was younger - and if half the stories told were true. She also was a nurse who worked on the local army base during the war (ie WWII) and had delivered (what seemed to me) half the babies in Scotland County, NC.

After a family meal, I can remember her sitting back in her chair, chain smoking, telling some colorful story, usually about my Dad - at the expense of my grandmother - in her rough smoker's voice. My grandmother would protest, "Now Fode, you know that's not true." And Aunty would reply, "Yes, it is Mamie. That's exactly how it happened and you know it."

Thinking back on those evenings, I know why I was so intrigued - they were like my conscious with 2 sides - there was Mamie, neat, prim, proper, correct, but a little tense. Then there was Fode, smoking, cussing, laughing, pushing the envelope.

Maybe that's not a good analogy because I don't see a lot going for Mamie's side.

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