Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Auntpocalypse Then

Note: Today's Tuesday's Tune is "So It Goes" by Nick Lowe! And now...The Auntpocalypse

My aunts brought gossip that I wasn’t allowed to hear and freaky candy I didn’t want to eat. Brown horehound drops tasted like dirty beets dipped in root beer. Powdery orange marshmallow circus peanuts fought your mouth with a sort of banana-y chemical warfare. With this non-candy, they packed non-presents, such as scratchy knitted elf costumes clearly designed to make adults laugh at small children. Once I could have sworn I heard my mother mutter, “Am I wrong? Does she look like a little raisin in that?” This was all very rough. Yet, it was my aunts’ lipstick that really had me on the run. I had a severe lipstick phobia, and it got wildly worse during the summer visiting season, when the six riders of the auntpocalypse came surging toward me in a relentless fleet of Fords—their tooting, waving numbers swelling to 600 in my nightmares. Shrouded in a hazy funk of tobacco smoke, Maybelline face powder, and Windsong perfume, they all, to an aunt, clamored to kiss me. What to do? What to do? HIDE!

I always chose the same small bush, and my legs stuck out from beneath it quite visibly—or so my sister told me later on. So, each summer, all of these aunt mouths, all Revloned up in the whole red and purple sector of the Crayola Box—mulberry, plum, red orange, violet red, red violet—swarmed down upon me. Only Auntie Hazel—the former saw player in an all-girl Hawaiian band—didn’t wear lipstick because she was too busy watching the Red Sox, smoking, and swearing, not necessarily in that order. So, I wasn't that worried about Auntie Hazel during the on-arrival smooch fest, when all of the aunts attempted to deposit their mouths all over my face, even as I perfected my aunt-B-Gone move, one arm flying dramatically in front of my face as if to ward off a blow. As I cowered and sought out the company of sparsely-branched shrubs, my sister made polite conversation and passed nimbly through the throng, processing them quickly and with great diplomacy, “Ah, you’re looking well, auntie. Yes. To be sure. School. It is fine. And, my recorder skills? Here, let me play you ‘Merrily, We Roll Along.’” She got it all over with a honed, five-minute meet and greet, a pro forma recorder tootle or two, and then she oozed smoothly, chameleon-like, into the background.

In contrast, by ducking and feinting and going to ground, I managed to prolong the agony of the auntslaught, and I became prey that had to be stalked through the whole visit. “Where is she?” “Oh, she’s shy. She’s hiding.” “What? Why, that’s silly! Where’s my girly girl? Girly girl? Girly girl? Why, you’re going to hurt my feelings, honey! Come out, auntie has a kiss for you!” Off I scooted, and with each and every aunt-ditching maneuver, I kicked up the suspense another notch or two. The air went electric with the thrill of the hunt. “Do you think she went down into the basement? Let’s see!” While I spooked around wild-eyed, my sister kicked back at the kitchen table, sipping an Orange Crush with a flexi-straw and cutting out paper dolls. Occasionally, for sport, she’d misdirect the posse as I crouched behind the furnace, sooty-faced and sure I was invisible.