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 and some people even kissed the corpse. When I was little I will never forget my Mother making me kiss my Grandmother in her casket. When my lips touched the cold skin, I screamed so loud everyone was holding their ears. So of course Mother did not try to make me kiss any more corpses.
Aunt Mamie had makeup on for the first time in her life and she was dead. She was also wearing her best dress even though she wasn’t going anywhere. Except maybe to Heaven which I thought was doubtful. The dress was black and of course and my Mother remarked that she looked better in death than she ever 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. A few of the women were setting the table with plates and silverware. My Grandmother was slicing a big ham that someone had brought and there were assorted salads including macaroni and potato salad. All kinds of cakes and cookies were piled on the table and of course the children were hovering around that area. Mother went to help the other women putting the food out and I ran outside to play with all my cousins who by the sound of it were having a merry time.
In the big yard a was an outhouse that we sometimes used for hiding when we played hide and seek. Of course you had to hold your nose for as long as you could stand it in there. It was a great hiding place as no one ever found you there. Or maybe they just didn’t want to come in there. 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. I think we kids were exempt, thank goodness. After that much time on my knees, they would be really sore. We played outside until dusk and then were called in to eat. By that time everyone was ravenous and we noisily started chomping on whatever was put in front of us. After everyone was done eating, there was still quite a bit left.
It was very dark out by this time but a few neighbors were still coming in, mostly for the food I think. I was still at the table finishing off a cookie but when I looked around I realized, I had not seen my father or Uncle John for all the time we had been there. I noticed the parlor, where the casket was, appeared very dark with a slight glow emanating from the doorway.
Just as I was biting into the cookie, a strange noise coming from the parlor made me jump and drop the cookie. Tripping over each other, a few women ran to the doorway to the parlor and they let out a shriek. I ran over to the doorway where my Mother was standing with her mouth open in shock, but she blocked the way saying, “This is not something you need to see.” Most of the mothers there kept their children from the parlor until they left for the night.
Mother told me later that Himself, who was very drunk, was holding Aunt Mamie up in a sitting position and Uncle John, who was also drunk, was trying to pour whiskey down her throat. They were both saying, “You old witch, you never took a drink when you were alive, so bottom’s up!” Then they dropped her back down into the coffin as they danced a jig around the room!