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Aunt Bessie's trunk - Sing With Me If It's Just For Today... — LiveJournal
If I should fall behind, Guyster, wait for me.
Aunt Bessie's trunk
The only thing I knew about my great-Aunt Bessie before she passed away while I was in class during my first year of school was that she had to have her left leg amputated from a bad bout of diabetes, and that she had a trunk that my whole family wanted, especially my grandfather’s side since she was my grandpa's sister. She lived in a nursing home; I’d heard that at the dinner table, and to hear the family tell it, she had some money, too.

I arrived home from school to my mother crying, yet I didn’t think there was anything wrong because my mother cried all the time, but this day she managed to sputter out “Aunt Bessie died!” She screamed it, truth be told, as if it were my fault.

My dad got home from work and the three of us went to my grandparent’s house where some of the family gathered. My mother’s sister Christine, whose face looked like a beach ball after a hard day of play, rubbed my grandma on the back, and I saw my cousin Davey in the kitchen at the table so I went to sit with him. Even though I didn’t much care for Davey, he was better than being around his mother. She was prone to fits of anger and Jesus. She scared me.

I grabbed the bag of potato chips from Davey’s hand, and before he had a chance to say, “Hey, give those back,” I crushed the bag to make what I liked to call “potato soup.” He sulked. I knew there wouldn’t be any physical consequences. He was lame.

Voices got louder in the living room when Aunt Geraldine arrived with my Uncle Eddie a half step behind her. I stopped the crinkling of my work on the bag so I could better hear the adults argue. Christine’s husband Carl said he’d go over to the nursing home to pick up the trunk, and I guess my mother didn’t like that idea much because she started calling him a “money grubber” and while I didn’t really know what that meant, I was certain she was right.

Christine, Carl, and their slow son Davey lived in a trailer with their two other kids, my cousin Jim, who’d always say he wanted to be a preacher when he grew up, and my cousin Brenda, a too tall girl for her age, her height sparking whispered jokes among the rest of the family. The two older ones weren’t there that day at my grandma and grandpa’s house, just Davey whose face turned dark and mean when he heard my mother yelling at his dad.

The fighting went on until it got dark outside, and my Aunt Christine was never more than a foot from my grandma. Even when grandma came into the kitchen to see if we wanted anything to eat, Davey and me, Aunt Christine was in her shadow. I saw Carl grab his car keys twice, but grandpa stopped him each time, and my mother warned that no one was going to get that trunk without the whole family present.

When Aunt Bessie’s room was cleaned out at the nursing home, my mother was right there with Carl, Christine, and my grandparents. Bessie’s trunk was loaded into the back of my grandpa’s Cadillac and taken to the house where it would remain unopened for almost a year. It was my grandma's wish.

I guess the whole family thought that poor one-legged Aunt Bessie had the mother lode in that thing the way they were carrying on, and I guess Christine and Carl thought it’d be the ticket out of their trailer, but when the adults gathered around the trunk the following Thanksgiving, they discovered that there was nothing in it but some old family photos, a porcelain clock wrapped in one of her floral housedresses, a box full of keys, and a satin pillow with My darling Beth embroidered on it in elaborate cursive.

My mother started to cry, Christine and Carl glared at each other, and my Aunt Geraldine snickered, drew a deep drag from her cigarette, and said, “She was always a tramp, anyway.”


15 comments or Leave a comment
ubermunkey From: ubermunkey Date: August 28th, 2006 05:42 am (UTC) (Link)
oh my lord T. This is some golden stuff you've given us.

I hope to hell that when I'm gone that is what they say about me also. "he was always a tramp, anyway" Only I hope they add an s to the end of it to emphasize our white trash roots. "anyways"

I haven't said it in a while but since I'm feelin it after reading your post I'll say it now. I love you man, be well.

yieldsigns From: yieldsigns Date: August 28th, 2006 07:04 am (UTC) (Link)
Lol. "Anyways" indeed.

From: milehigh33 Date: August 28th, 2006 12:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
i swear i grew up in a parallel universe to yours..........

that nugget of familial craziness is just begging to be put on film!
guysterrules From: guysterrules Date: August 28th, 2006 07:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
Where'd you grow up (not that geography has any relationship to familial insanity)?
From: milehigh33 Date: August 30th, 2006 12:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
i grew up in Mississippi.........
privatesector From: privatesector Date: August 28th, 2006 02:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
The box of keys didn't contain one to a safety depoit box, did it?
popebuck1 From: popebuck1 Date: August 28th, 2006 02:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wow. That was a whole short story, right there. Beautiful.
guysterrules From: guysterrules Date: August 28th, 2006 07:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for reading it, Buck.
From: jeffbriggs Date: August 28th, 2006 04:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't know where you grew up but it sounds like a page out of some bang-on Southern novel. It took me way back south as I read it and I had my own faces for all the people in this tale.
guysterrules From: guysterrules Date: August 28th, 2006 05:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was born in Selma, Alabama, but that doesn't count because my family moved to a suburb of Chicago when I was four. Both grandparents, though, grew up in the South.

You're Shawn's partner! Yeah!
From: jeffbriggs Date: August 28th, 2006 05:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Shawn is my amazing man. I count myself very lucky. Why he puts up with me............

I truly was struck by the 'southerness' of the post. It read like a page right out of my life from more than one occasion.
Have you ever seen 'Sordid Lives'???
If you haven't I think you would get a great kick out of it as this made me think of it also.
guysterrules From: guysterrules Date: August 29th, 2006 04:52 am (UTC) (Link)
No, never saw Sordid Lives, but just looked it up on IMDB and it looks great. I'll hunt down a copy.

Shawn has been a great LJ friend for quite some time, and I think he's a remarkable man. We all came very close to meeting one another (you included) when I was up your way a couple of years ago.

Next time, we'll make it happen.
creactivity From: creactivity Date: August 28th, 2006 07:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
You make me want to have a trunk for people to argue over.

Unfortunately my entire family is non-confrontational and just as likely to donate it to the goodwill unopened.
fabulist From: fabulist Date: August 28th, 2006 07:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
See? Almost perfect.
quuf From: quuf Date: August 28th, 2006 08:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Your mention of potato chips at grandma's kitchen table transported me in an instant back to one of your other treasures. And now I'm suddenly hungry.
15 comments or Leave a comment