Mother and I went into the parlor and stood by the casket to say a prayer for Aunt Mamie. A shudder ran through me as I gazed at her lying on the pink satin lining of the coffin. She looked so alive. That part of the Wake I didn’t like, looking at the body. Aunt Mamie had makeup on for the first time in her life and she was dead. And she was wearing her best dress. It was black of course and my Mother remarked that she looked better in death than she had in life.
After viewing the body, we went into the kitchen where the rest of the family and a few friends were sitting around the big wooden table. Most of the women were putting plates and silverware and napkins out for the guests. My Grandmother was slicing a big ham that someone had brought. And there were assorted cookies and cakes and pies. Mother started to help with putting casseroles out and I went out to the big backyard to join my cousins who by the sound of it were having a merry time.
In the big yard was an outhouse that we sometimes used for hiding when we played hide and seek. You of course had to hold your nose when you went in to hide there. No one ever seemed to find you there so it was a great place to hide. As we were playing, I noticed through the fence, that Father Kelly was coming up the walk. He was going to lead everyone in saying the Rosary for Aunt Mamie. But we decided to stay out in the yard and keep playing. We stayed outside until dusk was descending and we were hungry.
As dusk turned to darkness, we were settled inside eating everything we could get our hands on. And there was still a lot of food left. Neighbors kept coming in to visit and say a prayer and of course stayed for a drink and a piece of pie or cake. I looked around but realized I had not seen my Father the whole time I was there. Or his brother John. I noticed the parlor where the casket was, was quiet and very dark except for a dim light near the coffin.
Just as I was biting down on a chicken leg, a strange noise coming from the parlor made me jump and almost choke. Tripping over each other, everyone in the kitchen ran to the doorway of the parlor and peered in. My eyes almost popped out of my head, Aunt Mamie was sitting up in her coffin! I let out a bloodcurdling scream! My Mother gasped, “Jesus, Mary and Joseph!”
My Father, who was very drunk was pouring whiskey down Aunt Mamie’s throat as John held her in a sitting position. “You old witch, you never took a drink while you were alive, so bottom’s up!” he rasped. They then dropped her back into the coffin and danced a jig around the parlor.