Monday, November 24, 2008
Is that a drumstick in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?
Is there someone special you think of every Thanksgiving? Someone, perhaps, who knit you a warm, fuzzy hat with your initials or who baked you a blueberry pie even though blueberries weren’t in season? How nice.
Well—Marcia, Marcia—I’ve got someone I think of too.
Aunt Burty, God rest her wrinkled soul, was my second cousin’s twice removed aunt, or something like that. You know those fake eyes you hot glue to crafty projects? The eyes that don’t line up and have a mind of their own? Now put those eyes behind bottle glasses and add red lipstick and a newt. That was Burty.
She was engaged to an opera singer in her twenties, but he died. She never left her parents’ house after that; she never loved again.
I’m not sure how exactly Burty ended up at our house that Thanksgiving of ’95. She looked as surprised to be there as we did having her there. Whoever dropped her off must have told her she was going somewhere divine because she arrived in a fur, pearls, and heels.
Sadly for her, the festive ambiance at the table was limited to my brother Teddy’s armpit farts.
For a 98-pound geezer, Burty was surprisingly agile. She plopped herself at the end of the table, and every time she wanted something she’d pull the tablecloth towards her so she could reach it. Which meant as soon as you saw your plate moving you’d have to grab on to it.
And, um, did I mention that when her hands weren’t busy with that they were navigating Sud de Burty?
Yes, she and her giblets had a grand old time. As soon as her hands crept yonder, my mother would try to come up with reasons for her to keep her hands above the table, like could Burty please pass the salt? Hang a picture? Show us the lovely embroidery on her sleeves?
Alas, if someone wants to dial her rotary phone, nothing is going to stop her—not even a request to applaud Teddy’s armpit performance (do you have any idea how difficult it was for my mother to ask him to “play” a song so everyone would clap?).
Yes, my loves, nothing quite beats eating turkey while an old woman soaks the whisker biscuit and your brother’s sweaty, pubescent armpit deflates.
Norman Rockwell, if you’re up there, I’d love to see your rendition of this.
P.S. All that paddling the pink canoe must have been good for her health because Burty lived to be 93.
P.P.S. If you’re ever at a loss for slang terms for strumming the banjo, check this out.
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