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Monday, July 17, 2017

(1) OF ALL THE NERVY PEOPLE, SHE IS THE NERVIEST.

RELATIVE PAIN

      "When I was walking home from school," my cousin Florence told me, "there was a place where I could look through several yards and see whether Mother's car was in the driveway.  If it was, my heart would sink.  I knew I would have the usual interrogation to face, probing into my every action, even my every thought.  And then I would be told what I should have done, should have thought."
     "Mother" was my father's sister Ruth.  In 1911, at the age of forty, she had married Norman Storer, a widower with four children.  This good Christian busybody set about engineering every aspect of her new family's lives, to the despair of Florence, her siblings, and at times, I expect, her husband.   In appearance, she was considered handsome.   She had naturally wavy hair in a military cut, a bust like a battleship's prow, and another singularly prominent feature, her nose.  Its aquiline shape seemed designed for prying into the affairs of others, sometimes quite literally.
     When Ruth visited my family, the nose would first inspect the contents of our Frigidaire, sniffing out evidence of lax house-keeping.  Anything green that was not supposed to be green was called to my mother's attention and relegated to the garbage pail.  Sprouted potatoes?  Disgraceful.  Milk on the turn?  Such a waste.  More than one maid packed her bag and departed ahead of Aunt Ruth.  The rest of us had to stay because we lived there: my mother, father, a brother six years older than I, and a sister three years younger.
      When I got to the diary keeping age, Aunt Ruth was the subject of frequent complaints.  Had I known in 1935 of Thomas Brown's quatrain rejecting Dr. Fell, I could have written a parody:
               I do not love thee, Auntie Ruth.
               The reason I know not, forsooth,
               But this I know to be the truth:
               I do not love thee, Auntie Ruth.
Saturday, August 3, 1935
     After supper we went to the movies to see Shirley Temple in "Curly‑Top."  Aunt Ruth liked it, thank‑goodness.  We got home awfully late, and I was ready to drop off to sleep when she called Janeth and I into her room.  She read us a letter that she had written in 1921.  I almost yawned in her face.
Sunday, August 4, 1935
     Aunt Ruth wanted us to get up at 8:00 even though it's Sunday.  She doesn't like to sleep much I guess, because she talks until mid‑night and then gets up at 7:00. She caged Dicky in the sun‑ parlor and talked to him all morning.  I sure pitied him..                               
Friday, August 9, 1935
     This morning we decided to go horse‑back riding.  We were in the car and ready to go, when Aunt Ruth spoke up and said she wanted to come along and see us off.  We waited for her and then went to the riding place.  We had to wait about 2 hours before any horses were ready.  Finally Mother, Janeth, and I and the guide were on our horses and ready to go when Aunt Ruth said, "I think I'll come, too.  I wonder if someone will loan me some riding clothes."  The man told her there weren't any more horses unless she rode the guides horse.  So that's what she did.  The man's wife loaned her some slacks, and she came along.  Of all the nervy people, she is the nerviest.  I could tell Mother was mad, and I felt ready to explode any minute.  She was always kicking up her horse in the wrong places and trying to get in front of my horse, who was the leader.
Tuesday, August 13, 1935
     All the way to Vermont and all the way back, Janeth was always wanting maple‑sugar. Aunt Ruth said that when we got home she'd show her how to make some out of maple syrup.  So this morning I was sitting in the living‑room reading Uncle Tom's Cabin when Aunt Ruth asked me to come in and watch the maple syrup to see that it didn't boil over.  She wanted to write a letter, and Janeth was going to the store for some cream. 
     I had to put down my book and watch the maple‑syrup, which didn't  boil over.  When Janeth came home I went back to my book.  Aunt  Ruth and Janeth were stirring the maple‑syrup and cream in little  dishes, and Aunt Ruth asked me to help.  I was getting mad because she never lets me alone.  I said, "Oh, alright.  I wonder when I'll get this book finished."  She said, "Oh, this is much more important, you can read any time!"
      "Well, Janeth will probably get sick over it anyway," I said. 
     She was very indignant about that remark and wanted to know if I could think of anything worse to say.  I said I could, but I didn't think I'd better. Then she said she'd always thought I was such a sweet, loving little girl, and a lot of bunk like that. 
     "I guess I'm not, then," I said.  I'm not going to be a dear little angel in front of her even if she is daddy's sister.  He winks at me when she says something silly.  I can get along with people as long as they don't preach, but if Aunt Ruth had been a man, I bet she'd be a minister.  She's always telling me what I know perfectly well.  That I should let my elders go in front of me, that I shouldn’t argue, that I won't get along in life because I have a bad disposition, etc. etc. ETC!  I know I'm no angel without her telling me.  This afternoon she asked me what I was thinking about.  I was thinking, I wish you'd go home!                      
 

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