Aunt Ader’s Place held more thrills than Disneyland. Much of my large extended family gathered on a beautiful Halloween. The women packed the hysterical children into a caravan of cars and made the rounds of a dozen houses scattered about the country neighborhood. The twenty-odd children piling fighting their way out of cars must have looked like Attila and his ferocious Huns as we descended on the locals. The drivers quickly gave up the battle and headed back as sugar-fired kids battled for Tootsie Rolls in the back seats.
Ensuring the madness continued, just as evening fell, we returned to a roaring bonfire in Aunt Ader’s front yard. That was all it took to turn us into wild people, rabid in hot pursuit of each other. Eventually, we wore down and settled in to roast hot dogs and marshmallows on the open fire. Many were burned beyond redemption, but some were even eaten.
As the evening cooled and the fire burned low and we sat on logs around the fire the stories started, first the old favorites like Bloody Bones that no one really believed. As we quieted and the little ones drifted off in their parents arms, the older folks started with “true” scary stories: the time a mad-dog tried to drag Great-Aunt Bessie’s baby from a pallet in the yard, the time so long ago when a hog devoured some cousin’s neighbor’s kid who fell into the pen. Cousin Ray told a a man seeking shelter from the night who was turned away from several houses because he seemed suspicious but was eventually was taken in. The next day the family’s mutilated bodies were found and murderous man never seen again. They later learned, the same thing had happened somewhere else. The beauty of all these terrible stories was that they all happened long ago to perfectly expendable people we’d never met, so we were able to enjoy them guilt-free with no emotional investment except a tingle of horror.
Finally, the delicious tales ended and we piled into cars for a dreamless ride home, to the sound of Mother and Daddy talking low in the front seat. Of course, Mother assured us those stories were just tall-tales, not to be believed, but that didn’t hender my pleasure at all.
I crocheted this cute little hoodie over the weekend. It cost about twenty dollars, only about one-third more than I could have bought it for. Now, that’s a deal, isn’t it? Oh yes, the bottom edges in front do line up. I am just a careless photographer.
Phyllis and I had been at it all weekend. It was her first weekend home from college in 1965 and she was on top of Daddy’s good list. Daddy liked his kids a lot better when he hadn’t seen us lately, so Phyllis was basking in the warmth of his rare approval. Since I still lived at home and was a smart-aleck, I was definitely was not on his good list. His ingratiating treatment really grated on my nerves, since he was gracious by proxy, ordering me to, “Do this for Phyllis. Get Phyllis some more cake. Stop what you’re doing and kiss Phyllis’s behind again.” Of course, Phyllis was soaking all this up since only two weeks before, she had been one of the peons who had to “Get so and so some more cake, Kiss so and so’s behind.”
We took a few hours off to sleep and let Phyllis’s behind get a little rest from all that kissing and picked up the fight where we left off. Sunday morning found me in a particularly bad mood knowing Phyllis would switch into her “sweet and precious persona” as soon as she stepped into the sanctuary, while “mean Phyllis ” recharged to be unleashed on me as soon as we got home. For good measure, I insulted her again just before going in to take a shower. She pounded on the bathroom door, demanding the girdle she had hung to dry on a towel rod. I got out of the tub, stripped the girdle from the rod, and flung it out the bathroom door, and yelled at her, “Here’s your darned old girdle! It’s wet anyway!”
This was all it took. Phyllis flew to Mother, squalling so hard, she couldn’t even tell Mother anything except how horrible I had been to her. Mother finally calmed her enough to find out what was wrong, and Phyllis blubbered out, “She said my girdle’s wet. Boo hoo hoo!”
Mettie and Eddie Swain and three of their seven children.
was abandoned by her mother as an infant, leaving her with her own mother. Though divorce was almost unheard of at that time, she was twice-divorced. Her father went on to remarry and took no responsibility for her. He only visited her once, when she was the widowed mother of seven. Late one night, Mawmaw told this tale of her early years, the only time I ever heard this.
“I jist turned nine years old, ‘bout the age you are now. Me and Ma had picked some beans in the cool a’the mornin’ an’ I was a’helpin’ ‘er git ‘em ready fer canning. Ma set down in her rocker to rest jist a minute an’ I was a’playin’ with my kitten. I was glad she was a’sleepin’ a while since I didn’ want’a mess with them beans no how. After a spell, I saw Ma’s head was kinda hung to one side an’ spit was a’runnin’ out’a her mouth kinda foamy. She wouldn’ wake up. I got up to run over to git Miz Jone’s an’ seen there was a fire between our place an’ hearn. There warn’t nothin’ to do but run through it the best I could. Them flames was a’lickin’ at my feet an’ I was jist a’cryin’. I got Miz Jones, but it ain’t made no difference. When they got over to see ‘bout Ma, she was dead. They sent for Uncle Jeb to git’er buried.
I had to go to Uncle Jeb’s, then. He was awful good to me, but Aunt Lottie was jist hard down. She whooped on me ever chancet she got, an’ they was plenty. She made shore I ain’t done no sittin’ aroun’. I married soon’s I could, jist to git outta her way.
I never really had no home after Ma died. I knowed Aunt Lottie didn’t want me around ‘lessen they was work to be done. She’d put me out to help a woman that was having a baby, help with the canning, or help with the sick. I never seen no pay, just worked for my keep. Sometimes my mama would get settled and send for me, but I had to stay of her husband, so back I’d go to Uncle Jep and Aunt Lettie, till she could put me off on somebody else. It was hard times for sure.