Friday, December 7, 2007

My Aunt the Outlaw

Queen Jayne has me thinking a bit about relatives. Back in August, I wrote about my aunts. When I was growing up, I had no idea who my aunts were. I just knew they were old (not really), they wore a lot of lipstick (oh, yeah, really really really--like frosting on a layer cake), and they wanted kisses from me (yikes). That was more than enough to make me flee from them.

What I did not mention is that at least one of my aunts has the soul of an outlaw. She revealed her true self to me on the day her husband--my mom's brother--was buried. I'm driving her slowly through the town in which she and my uncle grew up and where she mostly raised her family. It's important to know that my aunt has literally spent 5o years in this town, was class valedictorian, the whole nine yards. Remember this, please.

So, I'm behind the wheel. My aunt is riding shotgun next to me. My sister is lurking in the back, thinking longingly of trying to pop down an alleyway and smoke a cigarette pre-service. As I drive along reflecting on, you know, life and death and whatnot, and gazing moodily at the hollowed-out shell that is Main Street (why the heck did they have to get rid of the DINER? If you're going to rip out a town's heart, why not just dig up the streets, too?*), I SHOOT RIGHT PAST THE FUNERAL HOME and begin to sail majestically out the other side of the town. It is a very small town, Main Street is a one-way street, I see the crowd outside the funeral home growing smaller and smaller in my rearview mirror, and I panic. OOH! I panic!

Urrrrk! I slam on the brakes and bang a sudden left so I can turn the car around.

Ooook! I have picked another one-way street. I am now driving up it the WRONG way.

Wee-oo, wee-oo, wee-oo. I've got the flashing blue lights of 5-0 in my rearview mirror now. RATS! Funeral. Must get to. Starting soon. Have what I suddenly wildly think of as "the guest of honor" in the passenger seat of my car. My cop flop-sweat starts to dampen the appropriate spots of my vintage black dress (somber, respectful) with a print of baskets of purple flowers (hopeful, humorous--my uncle would have liked it).

There is not very much going on in Mayberry, and the cop is bored. A flatlander from Taxachusetts driving stupidly=Big Fun! He advances slowly toward the car, hand on gun.

"LICENSE AND REGISTRATION!" he barks as the three of us sit there grinning weakly at him.
Stop. Take a minute. What happens next?

1) My aunt says, "My husband just died and we need to get to the funeral back there."
2) I look up at him and say, "Arrest me, I did it."
3) My sister silently slips out of the car, finds an alley-way, has a cigarette.
4) My aunt, who has lived in the town for 5o years, leans across me, looks up at him with wide eyes, and says, "We're not from around here."

Yes. It was 4). Later on, I find out that my aunt really hates cops. She saw one beat a man up when she was little, she "almost kicked the bee-hind of one that was rude to your uncle," she thinks they abuse their power, and she "rarely likes their attitudes." As I find out that day, my aunt "does not believe the police deserve the truth." WHOA!

So, the cop immediately lets us go. "Oh? You're not from around here? Well that explains it, ma'am." And, off we cruise to the funeral home.

I'm due to go visit her soon. She reads a lot of books and saves them for me, and she tells me that the book stack is now "taller than I am" and that she has had a dream about "meeting Judge Judy and giving her all of the books I've been saving for you" which seems like a CLEAR indication that I'm overdue for a visit.

And then, there was the aunt who played saw in an all-girl Hawaiian band. And, the aunt whose father gave her away to the Fuller Brush man, and the aunt who...Ah, well. Other stories for other times. I'm never going to forget this one. You can spend your whole life thinking about a person in one way and have it change with one sentence.

"We're not from around here."

*Things the town used to have a lot of: movie theatres (3), jobs (heaps), restaurants (many many)
Things the town has now: no movie theatres, no jobs, 1 restaurant, lots of heroin (much much)