I knew Aunt Bonnie before I knew myself. Long before I was four years old, Uncle Edward and Aunt Bonnie parked their tiny, green and white egg shaped trailer home in the shade of the sweetgum tree in our side yard while he worked a construction job in the area. In the days before trailers could be described as mobile homes, they were highly mobile, and anything but homey, with the back wall curving claustrophobically over the double bed. I can’t imagine there would have been extra bed-space for their toddler and newborn. Not surprisingly, in a matter of days, the little family had abandoned their tiny home for more comfortable quarters in the house with our family. Though they wouldn’t have been consulted about the living arrangements, Bonnie and my mother became fast friends marooned at home with five small children while the men worked and played long hours, forging a friendship that lasted their entire lives.
Eddie was a few weeks old and howled constantly with colic when they first moved there. Unable to console him, Aunt Bonnie laid him on a pallet on the floor in the living room with my brother Billy, a placid baby of about six months, and went on about her business. Eddie howled on as before. Billy was a pleasant baby and seldom fussy, even though he was teething. Bonnie and Kathleen were cooking supper and tidying up since the men would soon be in. Mother asked if Aunt Bonnie needed to check on Eddie since he was still howling. “He’s just squalling like he always does,” was her reply, but she did concede and check on him. Billy had pulled himself over to Eddie, gripped his skinny little leg like a chicken bone and had gummed from ankle to knee. It was as red as a beet. That time Eddie had more reason than colic to cry.
Mother and Aunt Bonnie were doing their wash on Mother’s wringer washer one blazing summer day, suffering in the heat while they hauled water, wrung out clothes, hung out the laundry. As they also tended their five small children, Aunt Bonnie was also making pies. They were miserable.
Aunt Bonnie remembered a jar of moonshine hidden in the cabinet, thinking it would be just the thing to brighten their day. Taking a healthy nip, she passed it to Mother (Mother swears she never touched it). Aunt Bonnie felt so much better, she had another snort. That one really did the trick. Soon she was laughing and dancing, unconcerned about the heat, laundry, men, or kids. Aunt Bonnie checked on her pies and told Mother, ” I see two of each of those pies…I see two of you!”
Uncle Edward came through just in time to hear that and said, “Bonnie, you’re drunk!” (He certainly would have been qualified to judge.) Aunt Bonnie staggered off to bed to sleep it off. Mother wished she’d hit the bottle too, by the time she finished the wash, wrestled five kids, and cooked supper by herself.
Hours later, Aunt Bonnie came into the kitchen all chipper and rested, remarking to Mother, “I didn’t sleep but about fifteen minutes, did I?”
Bonnie and Kathleen spent the next sixty years together, becoming closer than many sisters, proving family is who you love.