Mom’s family was way the heck different from Dad’s family.
Mom’s family was full of fast talker. They had so much to say, their words stumbled over each other trying to get out in the world. Uncle Tony and Grandpa, and Aunt Mary and Aunt Clara all had something to say about everything going on in the world. All those uncles and aunts lived to be about a hundred or more, and the whole while they talked up a blue streak. Sometimes I wondered if anybody was listening with all that stuttering, and shouting and waving of hands.
Dad’s family was full of story-tellers. All those brothers laid out stories about this person or that dog, or maybe a cow who jumped fences or a fish that could do tricks, ’til I never knew what was true and what they made up. Aunt Barbara told stories, too. She was quieter than her brothers. Still, she could tell a story so I never forgot.
Talkers and story-tellers are way different. Talkers lean forward and point and wave. Sometimes in all that excitement, spit flies out along with the words. Story-tellers lean back, their mouths twitch holding back smiles, and their eyes dance over your face watching for a reaction. Talkers are anxious to tell you what’s on their mind. Story-tellers wait to see what you think. Talkers are in a hurry. Story-tellers take their time. That’s why Dad and his brothers and Aunt Barbara were slow-talkers, and that’s why Dad could never get a word in edge-wise with Mom’s family.
Once, while Mom and Dad were in her house talking to Uncle Chuck, Aunt Barbara came out to keep us kids company. Lots of times we waited in the car, while Mom and Dad ran in somewhere or another “for just a minute.” That’s when minutes were super-long. Sometimes a minute seemed like half a day. Sometimes, I almost believe us kids got forgot about. Dad said that only happened once, back when Deanna was a baby and he and Mom took off Sunday afternoon for an auction and forgot all about a baby sleeping in the crib, until they were five miles down the road. After Deanna, things got pretty noisy, so they never forgot they had kids again. Still, sometimes they left a kid somewhere, ’cause they forgot to count before leaving. That’s why we all stayed in the car until they came back; just in case.
“Do you kids ever fight?” Aunt Barbara leaned on the open car window and looked into my eyes. Then she looked at Deanna and Bonita and little Vickie.
Of course we did. I shook my head no, which might have been the same thing as lying. On the other hand, Mom said us kids had to stick together, ’cause one thing is for sure, we always had each other, forever and ever.
“My kids fight all the time,” Aunt Barbara said. Her blue eyes twinked just the same as Dad’s did when he told a story. She told us all about the silly things my cousins Cathy and Craig fought about. I forgot I was even waiting for anyone.
Aunt Barbara was pillowy like Grandma C, but Aunt Barbara was a whole lot sturdier. Besides being a mother, Aunt Barbara was a teacher, which was a tinsy bit confusing for me, ’cause she lived in a house with a family, not at a school like most teachers.
“If one wets the bed, they even argue about what shape the puddle is: square or round,” Aunt Barbara said.
Aunt Barbara leaned a little further into the window and looked from sister to sister and then to Loren-Dee-Dee-Bopper, who was just a baby. Her baby-powder breath warmed my fingers poking down in that little crack where the car window disappears when it opens. “You kids never get mad at each other?”
Maybe I could have thought of something just then, but I was too busy trying to imagine a square puddle peed on the bedsheets.
Mom still gets together for lunch or dinner with Aunt Barbara, Aunt Phyllis, Uncle Gerald and Aunt Millie, and Uncle Glenn and Aunt Arlene. Only two brothers and one sister, and most of the sisters-in-law are still telling stories. Once a year, we have a big family get-together. The aunts and uncles may be deaf or close to it, and their eyesight may be dim. Still, they can tell a story, just like old times. Wrinkled hands wash across grins and eyes twink as they try to read the listeners’ reaction. Some of the story is true, I’m certain. Part is make-believe, I think. I can never tell for sure what is which.
As for me, well, whenever we are together, I write as fast as I can.