Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Remember, all errors in my blog are intentional and inserted just to see if those reading are paying attention. Yay, right.

Aunt Bess was not just my mother's sister, she was an event. Mom often told stories of her wild sisters growing up on Yount Road. Aunt Iva is a story for another blog. Aunt Bess was a crazy lady in a good sense.

Visits from Aunt Bess and Uncle Sam always meant presents. A Christmas memory: The double French door opened from the front room. There stood Aunt Bess and Uncle Sam next to a small, brightly painted, yellow, wooden pony. (Lots of adjectives to match lots of little girl feelings.) It was a toy for toddlers so I couldn't have been more than two. Wow. A pony. A moment etched forever in my then expanding awareness.

Aunt Bess and Uncle Sam owned a store and cabins on Hamlin Lake in Ludington, Michigan. There are many stories but this story is about a woman. We loved going to visit. In the summer, they moved from their house to the store due to the busy season. We either stayed in Mead Cottage or at the store. Mornings started with Aunt Bess cooking up breakfast and Uncle Same pouring coffee that Dad swore could stand up in the cup. He cussed and told stories bigger than imagination. The rest of the day was spent fishing with a skillet of fresh fish each night. It was a paradise away from the farm. Quite a distance from what we were exposed to on the farm.

When Uncle Sam died, Aunt Bess carried on alone. She was tough as nails. Her dyed black hair, gruff smoker's voice and cussing made me a bit shy. It was rumored that she had a boyfriend who owned bar across the road. Mom said she had once heard Bess sneak out after we were all in bed.

On one trip I was to bed down in Aunt Bess's bedroom. I laid there looking at the True Romance Magazines piled on the bed stand waiting for Aunt Bess to settle for the night. She came into the room wearing a long nightgown and her trademark beaded hair net. We said our good nights, and I waited. Sure enough, Aunt Bess quietly changed clothes and disappeared. She didn't return until after I had finally surrendered to sleep. Rumors were true. I could tell by the makeup on her face the next morning.

We all loved Aunt Bess. She was a bit rough but a whirlwind of great fun. We forged a new relationship when I was 23. She was visiting the farm when my boyfriend came to the house to ask my parents for my hand in marriage. Mom had her heart set on a boy I'd cared deeply about in high school. This city kid was seven years older than me and not to her liking. He stood in the kitchen and asked Mom and Dad. Mom immediately said 'no'. Well, that was unexpected and a bit awkward.

Aunt Bess took me aside. "She will come around. Just give her time." Fences were later mended. Relationships evolved into warmer, more honest relationships. My husband tagged her with the name "Sparkles" because of her hair net. It fit.

Aunt Bess was an experience. She brought joy and laughter each time we met. She broadened the world of her nieces on Neff Road. I miss her. She still makes me smile. Thanks, Aunt Bess.

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