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Monday, 14 June 2010

Aunt Lois

By Mary B Summerlin who keeps a photostream at Flickr

Aunt Lois died a few years ago, March ‘04. Going home to South Carolina will not be the same – it won’t be as much fun. You could always count on Aunt Lois to add a little spice to your visit. She was one of a kind – an original.

She was my Mother’s sister. My mother followed life’s rules, didn’t want to stand out in a group and was careful to be correct in all society’s graces. Aunt Lois wanted to stand out in a crowd, broke the rules with abandon, was forgetful and careless. Two very different people but they were devoted to each other and family.

As life turned out, I’m the black sheep of my family and Aunt Lois held a special place in my heart because she was always supportive. I married young, didn’t finish college, moved away from home, eventually to New York – that terrible place way up north with the Yankees.

I was supposed to stay home, marry the boy next door and live within five miles of home. Life didn’t work out that way for me. I never felt that Aunt Lois or her husband, Uncle Si disapproved of me. I’m not at all sure they could have been that non-judgmental if I had been their child.

Aunt Lois and her friend Rubye came to visit me in New York in the early 1980s. They were Genteel Southern Country ladies. I had just moved into my new home – was halfway settled in. I was working full time so my time with them was limited.

One day I came home from school and dinner was cooked and ready to be served. What a treat! I still revel in that kindness.

Another time they took a cab over to the Franklin Roosevelt estate in Hyde Park and I was to pick them up after school. When I got there, here they come from the apple orchard that was on the property with pockets bulging. They had picked up the apples from the ground; “they were going to waste, Mary.” They made me an apple pie later that week.

I bet it was the first time anybody had had a pie from the Roosevelt apple trees in a long time.

But growing up, there were always Aunt Lois stories – told and retold, always to our delight. And Aunt Lois appreciated them as much as anybody.

One of our favorites was the time she visited my brother Smith and his wife Pat in their house trailer. They were newlyweds and the trailer was parked on the farm. Aunt Lois was leaving and it always took her at least half hour to say good bye.

She was standing on the steps talking to Smith and Pat and her panties fell to the ground – right around her ankles. She bent over, stepped out of them, picked them up, put them in her purse and kept right on talking – didn’t miss a beat.

Nobody said a word about the panties. For years it was not mentioned. Finally Smith and Pat began telling family members. Mostly, I think, because they still couldn’t believe what had happened. The story finally got back to Aunt Lois and she agreed that that was what had happened. She said “What else was I going to do?”

Aunt Lois was famous for locking herself out of her car. She just seemed to always forget where her keys were. Usually they were in the locked car. It happened so often that she began taking a coat hanger in her pocketbook so that she could jimmy the car door open. She became an expert at it.

My brother Smith still shakes his head and says that he just can’t understand how she can remember to take the coat hanger but can’t remember the keys.

One time she went to a big department store at a mall that also had a big parking lot. She parked, went inside, did her shopping, came out got in the car and went down the road. She had gone several blocks when she looked at the passenger’s seat and saw a coat that she did not recognize. She looked in the back seat and saw several more things that definitely were not hers.

How could this be? What is happening? Well - it must not be her car!! She turned around and headed back to the parking lot. She pulled up to her former parking space and there were policemen and a man standing there looking very befuddled. Also there was a car just like hers in the next parking space.

I can just imagine the conversation between Aunt Lois and the police. The police saying, “this gentleman called and reported his car stolen. He said, it’s not where he left it and now I see you have it.”

“But officer, I didn’t steal it – I thought it was mine.”

I’m sure it took some time for this to get straightened out. Somehow she talked herself out of it. The man got in his car and drove away and Aunt Lois got in hers (exactly like his) and drove away. The police were left shaking their heads. Only Aunt Lois could be in this kind of a predicament.

Aunt Lois spent her last years in a nursing home. Every time I went to South Carolina, I always visited her. One day I was there and was admiring her newly polished fingernails. She said that she really liked them too and that she had chosen that pretty pink color because it would match the dress she was to be buried in.

She had all her plans made for her death and burial. The lady who did her nails had been told to always paint her fingernails that pretty pink color. Aunt Lois wanted to be ready when she died and to be color coordinated.

Her pronouncement one day as I was about to leave was: “You know, Mary, I’ve been here so long and all my friends and family are already gone and up in heaven and have been waiting up for me. I’m sure they’ve decided, by now that I’ve gone the other way!”

Yes, that’s my Aunt Lois. Life will be a little duller without her.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 12:03 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Oh Mary, I loved hearing about Aunt Lois' underpants falling down about her legs. I also enjoyed the pink nail polish to match her burial dress. Thanks for a great story.

What a great story. I had a similar incident happen when I was 16. I was on main street and down went the bloomers....like Aunt Lois...I just stepped out of them only I kept walkin!

Everyone needs an Aunt Lois. Wonderful story - so much fun to read. Thanks Mary.

Thanks to you all for your comments. It pleases me to know that you enjoyed Aunt Lois too.

Wonderful story, wonderful person, the kind of relative we all need and (maybe want to be).

I'm an Aunt Lois, but not nearly as colorful! What a delightful person she was and how lucky you were to have her in your life. Thanks for a wonderful story.

Thank you Estelle and Guitar Grandma for enjoying Aunt Lois and letting me know. Guitar Grandma I'm sure it would be fun to know you.

Sorry to be so late in commenting Mary but I have to say I really enjoyed your story. I've always yearned to be someone who could never skip a beat like that amid a moment of surprise, like knickers a'falling! Mostly I'm just the person who absentmindedly strolls off with the wrong shopping cart in the store. However...to run off with the wrong car is something I'm inclined to strive for now! God Bless all our befuddled and charming Aunts!

Thanks Cile. You're right. That car business required expert inattention.

I enjoyed every letter and every word of Aunt Lois,we all have some one like this in our lives,I keep in my memory a good friend older than my Mother but when I was a teen she was the shoulder where to cry and the one to tell everything and she always understood,some day I will tell her story,her name was Rosa

I am a chat friend of Char's.....and I love this story...
I am the eccentric in our family and have been so since a small child...
God Bless Aunty Lois and all like us!

I had the pleasure of living with Aunt Lois, Uncle Si and Charlene for the last half of my senior year. My parents moved from SC to Ohio, and the "A" family were immensely kind in allowing me to stay with them so that I could graduate with my friends. I can vouch for this portrait of Aunt Lois wholeheartedly. She was an original, to be sure. She refused to wear bedroom slippers. Instead, she would put on her low-heeled street shoes (with her robe) and clomp with firm determination from bedroom to kitchen and back, across the hardwood and tile floors. Repeatedly. This was hard to ignore on Saturday mornings, in particular, even though Charlene and I were sleeping upstairs and behind two closed doors. When she deemed that we needed prodding to get up, she would open the door at the bottom of the stairs and sing out the time in a voice that sounded much like Hyacinth Bucket's. (And then, resume clomping in her hard shoes.) I loved her. Uncle Si knew how to "get" me, too. He was the breakfast cook in the "A" household, and he would 'offer' me brains and eggs, which he knew made the blood drain out of my head, to the point of chasing me around the kitchen to wave the skillet in front of my face. He was a match for Aunt Lois, and he was endlessly amused by his wife. He had an interesting story about why he was called "Si" when his name was Charles, but I won't tell that one, here! I loved him, too. My own parents were, shall I say, a bit rigid, so my time with the "A" family was very helpful in loosening me up. Some would say it worked too well...right, Charlene? :-D (Love you, too -- always!)Thanks, Mary, for writing about some of my favorite people!

Thanks Betty S, Maev and Debby. I'm so glad Charlene told you about this place. Aunt Lois was such a character and so loved that it was easy to write about her. Come back another time and thanks again. Mary B

I enjoyed your story very much! I just finished your CD and my favorite story from it is "Summer of 92"!
Thank you so much for sharing it!

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