I had this great, great aunt who I am sure was alive when prohibition was on and if she wasn’t .. she definitely felt cheated. It was her mission in life to tell other people what to do … including God. Like the day she died she called everyone and told them she had decided to die that afternoon and could they please come by in the morning so she could give them her last instructions … not about what to do with her .. about what we needed to do with ourselves. By 2:00 she was real pissed with God that He was running a little late and by 5:00 (fashionably late) she was finally on her way. She was a part of the non-silent, aged, religious majority in my life. … a NARM!!
If you were talking on the phone, it was not uncommon for her to pick up her line and cut in and start telling you about how to treat that cold (always involved some combination of obscure and common plants, food items and cleaning products that should be ingested and/or rubbed vigorously on your body) or why you shouldn’t talk like that and btw remember to tell Humpydora that the quilting bee was at her place next week. Hey,party lines were cheaper, phones were for practical use and no-one had time to just sit on the phone and chat for hours anyway so who cared? I cared deeply about my time on the phone, but as she pointed out, I didn’t count.
I was surrounded my NARMS. There was a whole NARMY that monitored my life, being as my grandparents raised me. My aunt was just the loudest one. This NARMY was ever present in my life growing up. Dragged to church every Sunday, I was made to sit among the aged with their purple hued hair permed so tight they never needed face lifts. This is the same crowd that embraced Fortrel and pantyhose like they were the holy grail. The men were scrubbed pink, hair slicked back off the face and bodies stuffed into the “good suit” they finally bought on sale that one day, or that their uncle Elmer bequeathed them when he died because they were “almost” the same size. I am pretty sure Uncle Elmer wore some of those suits right up until the box went into the ground, when he was disrobed, sent on his way butt naked, and the suit handed down.
The men smelled of hand soap and mentholated salve, used to try to intercede where soap failed, and while it definitely removed more of the grime off the hands, it never ever was able to clean the fingernails. I grew up thinking that men’s fingernails just genetically came with a black rim underneath them. No matter how strong the soap and salve were, it could not mask the stale mustiness of clothes seldom worn but always cared for.
The women always smelled faintly of stale perfume and peppermints. I would be a teenager before I discovered that there were scents for women beyond flowers – rose, lavender, and lemon verbena.
My Aunt was always best friends with the Minister and the Minister hated me. He would be preaching and it was not unusual for him to stop in the middle of a sermon and say, “I’m sorry… I would like to go on but I lost my train of thought thanks to Aria Appleford talking and not paying attention.” I suppose I could have been grateful for the fact he was not standing there dramatically pointing at me but there was no need. Everyone slowly rotated in unison and glared angrily while the death stare from ole’ Aardvark and Humpydora lazered into my brain even before there were lazers. I have eyesight problems to this day … blinded by the light. They were just letting me know that I would be going home with them ALONE in the car down lonely country roads where bodies could just disappear and then we would see how funny I thought I was. (You should make lots of whapping noises here against a chair or something and throw in the occasional scream and a mooing cow every once in awhile and you will have the full effect of what was in store for me. Go ahead, ask your fellow employees to help. It helps to create the mood for my stories and involves you more. Think of it like a multi-dimensional Disney ride without any cute animation. Oh, and make sure you add my brother snortling in the background. Maybe a co-worker would snortle while you scream. Awesome!)
That minister used to be at our summer camp every year and thought it great fun to announce there was mail and then pretend he had read it by showing everyone he had slit open the envelope (meaning the pervert HAD read it and probably smoked all the marijuana my friends tried to send me.) I think I was 9 when I finally stood up in front of the whole camp and told the douchebag it was an illegal offence to open up someone else’s mail. You got it, next Sunday,stopped mid-sentence and named me as the cause for him losing his train of thought even though I had personally suggested with him having such bad experience with trains, maybe he should try the bus. I actually was not doing anything.
I took it on board. If my sitting there was disturbing him, I had to stop. I tried to stop breathing but when I passed out and clumped to the floor, I evidently knocked over one of the NARMy’s older members and sent peppermints flying everywhere. Turns out they weren’t peppermints. They not only tried chocolate for constipation, peppermint was big on the list as well and not everyone “handed in” all the “peppermints” they found. Turns out, another acceptable wage of sin, is raging diarrhea.
My Aunt told me I had disgraced the family, probably part of the reason for the Christmas cards she sent me every year until her death. “Merry Christmas. Hope you and your family are doing well. By the way, you are going to hell. Love Aunty.
Don’t worry about me though. I do have a lovely handbasket all ready for my trip. The best part is that there is no need to pray “lead her not into temptation.” I know the way and frequently take tour buses with me, in my handbasket, of course, no thought train here.