March 27, 2009
“Let’s go visit Aunt Margaret,” my Dad said. If I’d had a mirror in front of me, there’s no doubt my eyes and grin were wider than an airplane-hanger door. Margaret was my Dad’s older sister, and she lived with my Uncle Louie in a majestic old home in North Avondale, an original suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio. Aunt Margaret was a fun aunt. Trips to her house were guaranteed good times.
Aunt Margaret was a magical woman. I’m not an expert in human genetics, but there’s not a doubt in my mind that my positive attitude, Peter-Pan maturity and my-cup-is-overflowing outlook are directly related to her DNA. Aunt Margaret always greeted me with a huge smile, a hug and something nice to say, except for those days when Uncle Louie had stretched her patience tighter than a banjo string.
Once my Dad and I got to Marge’s house, my Dad called her that, we entered through the back door into her huge kitchen with soaring 10-foot ceilings. I remember it was a Saturday and for some reason that always meant moist cinnamon coffee cake was somewhere on the counter. Margaret knew that I savored this treat and no sooner had I entered the room from the climb up the outside steps she inquired, “Timmy, how about a piece of coffee cake?”
My face told her all she needed to know. Standing in the center of the kitchen she handed me a generous piece of the pastry. Not waiting to sit down, I immediately took a bite and crumbs exploded from the edges of my mouth landing on her spotless floor. She just laughed poking fun at her brother asking him if they never fed me at home. Aunt Margaret always teased my Dad, but it was all in good fun. That’s what most brothers and sisters do.
Once I devoured the last bite of the coffee cake Aunt Margaret chuckled, “Well Timmy, you made a little mess. Let’s clean it up.” She didn’t get a broom or a mop out of the closet. In one quick motion she touched the crumbs with the tips of her fingers and they stuck to her skin like nails to a magnet. I was dumbfounded. In my five long years on the planet’s face I had never seen crumbs magically attracted to fingers like that. The floor was spotless and she just laughed. What was this mystic power that my Aunt possessed? Just like all professional magicians, she didn’t reveal her secret, but years later I figured it out.
My First Time
Aunt Margaret and Uncle Louie loved to entertain. I have crystal-clear memories of adult parties at their home. My sister and I would amuse ourselves running up and down the plush carpeted stairs to their second floor as the adults talked about money, politics, work and who knows what. The steps were unlike any I had ever seen. When you got to the top of the steps, the hallway went left and right. It was the coolest thing ever.
Margaret was all about appearances. She dressed to the nines, had gorgeous black hair and a drop-dead gorgeous smile. Although not full-figured, she was very attractive. She applied this same set of standards to the buffet of food at her parties. The sterling silver and cut-glass platters, bowls and silverware gleamed. They were filled with all sorts of scrumptious food and treats. The sideboard table in the dining room where they all resided was as crowded with people as opening day at the Reds baseball stadium.
One particular party she gently took my hand while no one was watching and whispered in my ear. “Timmy, I’ve got something I want to show you. Come with me,” the words escaped her lips like a puff of fragrant spring air. We walked across the crowded dining room to the sidebar table that was overflowing with food of all sorts.
“Try this for me please,” she purred with a smile on her face. Aunt Margaret had never led me down the wrong path. I trusted her more than an explorer does a compass. But she was handing me the strangest white thing I’d ever seen, and it appeared to be covered in thick blood. I must have grimaced and pulled back, but with her lips inches from mine she softly implored, “I know you’ll love this. Go ahead and take a bite.”
Mustering up all the courage a kid can when presented with a strange food, I gulped and didn’t disappoint her. After all, it was Aunt Margaret, I loved her, and she was looking deeply into my eyes as any temptress would. At that instant in time, I’m convinced she wanted me to eat that cocktail shrimp more than she wanted life itself. She knew how good they were, and she wanted to be the first person to show me.
I bit down into the ice-cold crustacean, and the cocktail sauce flavor set my mouth slightly ablaze. There was just enough horseradish in the ketchup to give the sauce a tangy flavor. The firmness of the shrimp was intoxicating, not to mention it was tasty. Aunt Margaret’s laughter undoubtedly was sparked by my eyes lighting up in response to the heat and taste. I’m sure my request for more intensified her chuckle.
Aunt Margaret was but one of my fun aunts. All three of her other sisters had great smiles, perky personalities and each took me under their wings in a special way. Thelma, Juanita and Edna Mae were a bright spot in my childhood, but Margaret’s magical fingers are something I’ll never forget, much less her raven hair, sweet smile and taste in food.
As I’ve grown older, I’m convinced Margaret saw herself in me. I often have that same vision when I see children. You just seem to be able to predict what they’ll turn out to be. I wish Margaret were still alive today, so she could she if her intuition was spot on. Now that I think about it she didn’t need the proof - she already knew. God bless you Aunt Margaret!
Posted by Tim Carter at 9:09 AM