Monday, February 7, 2011
Aunt Ruby's Drawers
Aunt Ruby was a tall, painfully thin woman with dishwater blonde hair. She wore odd little hats, white gloves and big button earrings to church. She taught Vacation Bible School each year, a Sunday School class. She sang in the choir, visited the sick. She bought Christmas gifts for us each year; nice things, like Revlon lotion.
Uncle Bob had always lived with Maw Maw and did the farming. But after he married Aunt Ruby, Maw Maw renovated her house into two apartments. She lived in the front section, they in the rear. (I thought they got a much better deal. They had more rooms, and they were larger than Maw Maw's. "That's alright," Maw Maw said, "I don't need much room.")
Aunt Ruby was always nice to my siblings and me, but she could be haughty at times, even snippy. And although she and Maw Maw usually got along fine, they had little spats every now and then. During one such spat, Aunt Ruby called Maw Maw an "old woman" "You're no spring chicken yourself!" was Maw Maw's retort.
They always made up. And for days thereafter, they were almost too nice to each other: "Mrs. Wilson," Aunt Ruby says in a sugary voice, "Would you like to go with Ruth and me to the revival at Antioch next week?" "Why, yes, Ruby," Maw Maw says, a big smile on her face, ""That would be nice."
After their marriage (when they were both in their thirties), Aunt Ruby moved in her meager belongings and set to work refinishing Maw Maw's antique furniture (which she left behind for them to use); painting, waxing, keeping everything spic and span, cooking delicious meals (I loved her lemon icebox pie). She sped up and down the road in Uncle Bob's brand new Buick, buying a new sofa and chairs (with fringe on the bottom) for their living room, fashionable dresses and hats, brooches, earrings, high heels. She also bought new bedroom furniture.
Pitty and I were very curious about their bedroom; we longed to investigate.
Our chance came one day when I was ten years old, Pitty Pat, eight. We were spending the day with Maw Maw. She said Uncle Bob and Aunt Ruby had gone to Clinton and wouldn't be back until late in the day. "Go ahead on and play in the yard," she said, "I'm gonna be canning green beans, and y'all don't need to be around this pressure cooker."
As we sauntered down the hall, discussing our plans for the afternoon, I glanced into our uncle and aunt's dining room. "I've got an idea," I said, "Let's go in there and look around."
"I don't know if we should," Pitty said.
"We'll be real careful."
The dining room was heavy with the scent of a bouquet of lilacs in the middle of the table. On an end table next to Uncle Bob's chair lay The Louisville Courier Journal and Paducah Sun Democrat newspapers alongside a stack of Time magazines. Though no one was there, the room seemed occupied.
Chills raced up and down my back. I was considering leaving when I spotted their bedroom door. It was standing open.
The room was dark and shadowy and smelled of Aunt Ruby's perfume. Draped over a chair was one of her slips. I ran my fingers over the soft, satin material, wishing I had one just like it. A pair of her high heels stood on the floor next to the bed and one of Uncle Bob's shirts hung from a door knob. The room seemed to whisper.
All words and pictures © 2008 Brenda G. Wooley