Aunt Mamie was an old maid. Everyone called her that behind her back of course. She was my father’s aunt and therefore my grand aunt. She was called other choice names by her nephews and nieces. I never paid much attention. I don’t remember knowing just how old she was but that Summer I was only nine years old and she seemed ancient to me. She always wore long black dresses with the same black coat and black high top lace up shoes. She wore her gray hair in a bun, pulled tight to the back of her head. This made her nose which was pointy, even more so. Her eyes were small and wary, constantly darting here and there. She reminded me of the bad witch in the Wizard of Oz. Sometimes my Aunt Anna called me Mamie or Mame, which was Irish for Mary. I would be very insulted being compared to Aunt Mamie and not speak to Aunt Anna. That always got a laugh from the grownups.
When Aunt Mamie would come to visit us she always sat stiff-backed in a kitchen chair and gave her opinion on everything from cooking to the state of the union. She always carried a little black purse with snaps at the top so whenever she closed it, it made a sharp click. She would do this several times during her visits. She would sometimes take out her lace handkerchief and snuffle into it. Other times she would take out a mint of hard candy, unwrap it slowly, then put it her mouth and suck loudly. Mamie never offered us kids any of the candy. But whenever we saw her open the purse my sister and I would run and stand in front of her hoping to get a treat or maybe a few pennies. Our faces would fall as she would snap the purse closed! We never gave up though, every time Aunt Mamie came we gathered around her hopefully. I don’t remember ever getting any candy or money of all the times she came.
Even though she was my father’s aunt, there was no love lost between them. One time my father went to Mamie and asked to borrow some money to buy a truck. He wanted to go into the coal and ice hauling business with his buddy. But she refused to lend him the money or even discuss it. After that he never spoke to her.
Even after my parents separated, she continued to come to visit us. Probably because my Mother was too sociable to turn her away, as some of the other relatives did. Also, everyone knew my Mother was a good cook and would always offer a meal to company. And Mamie loved a free meal. I had heard her called a skinflint more than once. She was at our house for a visit at least once a week.
To be continued.