Monday, September 21, 2009
Predisposed to be an Old Maid?
Growing up, I was confused and scared. I had an old maid aunt on each side of the family. The future did not bode well for me. To make things worse, both were eccentric, each uniquely so. The way I saw it, I was doomed.
My mother's sister lived in Boston while she was getting her (first) master's degree at Harvard. My Dad said she was never right after that. It seemed every summer when I went to stay with my grandparents, my aunt was at some different school, in a different place. Once it was Oxford (as in England) for some degree. I never got the full story on that. All I know was the words "high faluten" and "pretentious'" were used in the description. The next location I heard about was the University of Colorado, seemed she needed to get her second master's (in "God's know what" - my mother's term for that degree). After a year or so out west she moved on to the University of Michigan for her Doctorate. Somewhere in all this she was back at Duke (her undergraduate Alma mater) getting some additional hours toward another degree in some unknown esoteric field. Finally she moved home with 2 masters degrees and a doctorate, declared she was unemployed, and that she could not find a job.
My grandparents, who had funded her rather extensive education just wanted her out of the house. Now in their late 60's they very much enjoyed the empty nest. She had continued to come home for visits and holidays during her tour of the various universities, and that was OK, but it never dawned on them, that their investment was going to be the egg back in the nest.
On the other side, my father's sister was 13 years old when he was born and had helped raise him. She never left home - as in never. She went to work for the phone company when she was 17 and stayed there for 40 years until she retired. Then she cared for my grandmother until granny died. Her life consisted of work, family, church, and bridge. She was prim and proper - think white gloves, a pink dress, and a Sunday hat. She was a lot of fun because she doted on me and my brother - we could do no wrong. But she could have lived in the 19th century (with the exception of the telephone) and never known the difference.
Between the two of them, I never knew either of them to have a date, escort, or even talk with a man. My mother always said her sister was "too educated" for anyone - who would have her? There were always whispers of a lost true love my father's sister had when she was young (I never knew the details and Lord knows it was not something you asked about.)
So here I was, looking at the prospects (and the genetic predisposition) of either being a roaming student unable to find work or a true spinster, stuck in the 19th century, never to leave home. As a child, at this point, I hoped I was adopted.