SWEET AUNT ALICE
Aunt Alice’s house was the most exciting place to visit besides Riverside Amusement Park in Chicago. Dad and Mom would take us to Aunt Alice’s every two weeks. Everything was the opposite at her house than it was at ours. I had seven cousins who were all older than I which added to the enjoyment from the time we walked into the front door until the time we left for home.
The first fantastic difference was Aunt Alice had a doorbell that chimed a loud long bonging song. I always pressed it several times before Mom gave me the look. All of my older cousins were readers and there were books lying all over their house. Aunt Alice was so busy that she never told them to put the books away. I could just pick up one and start reading. In addition to the books lying in giant piles were comic books stacked as high as my knees. At least seven piles! The comics were Reggie, Dagwood, Superman and all the Super Heroes. I was often found on the floor fast asleep with a Baby Huey comic book in my hands. It was heavenly. But wait, there was more.
Aunt Alice always laid out a banquet of delicious food on a huge dining room table with no chairs. It was left there all day long and we could eat all we wanted, and where we wanted. Her kitchen was never closed. When I asked Mom why we couldn’t eat like they do, my Mom said that Aunt Alice did the food like that because all her kids got home from work at different times. It was a grand way to eat and I suggested we should eat that way at our house, too. Mom told me to go play outside. She even started counting.
Aunt Alice’s basement was cool in the sweltering summers and warm for the snowy winters. The basement, most of the time held a monster metal bucket filled with green and orange bottled sodas sitting in ice cubes. A basement filled with all the great things a kid could want, we needed one of those at our house, too. When I suggested we try one of those buckets with sodas, Mom said, “You must need a nap!”
Aunt Alice had one thing I never wanted at our house and that was Uncle Bill. Uncle Bill was a mailman all his life. Sometimes he came home from work already drunk because he had stopped at the local tavern for a few beers at lunchtime. After a few more at home, he was mean, and I noticed Aunt Alice would put him in his place with a few short words,
“What’s the matter with you, Bill? Can’t you see the kids are visiting here today? Go out on the porch or something and be quiet,” she said.
Uncle Bill would mumble something and stagger back to the porch swing to drink his beer and watch the baseball game. I felt sorry for Aunt Alice when he would come home like that. But you know, she went about her business and didn’t even fret over Uncle Bill’s shortcomings. Aunt Alice with her happy smile and quick walk was a cute, five foot tall, sweet woman. She always wore her sheath dresses tied in back, with an ugly apron over it.
“Why aren’t you afraid of Uncle Bill?” I asked Aunt Alice one day.
“Uncle Bill can’t help himself; I love him just as God does, so I pray for him everyday. And I don’t want you to fret about him or me, just go play and get some sun.”
In the evening when the adults played pinochle, we kids went to bed in one of the bedrooms with wall to wall beds, an awesome sight to behold.
Mom said, “No,” when I looked at her.
Later, Mom and Dad would carry us out to the car and drive us home. I prayed for Aunt Alice, I loved her and wanted God to bless her and even Uncle Bill.
Aunt Alice stayed with Uncle Bill until he died from liver disease and dementia. He was mean to the end but Aunt Alice never broke her stride of faithfulness to him. Her prayers for him brought her grace to love him for their entire long marriage. Aunt Alice is the reason her house was so extraordinarily fun, it was filled with her unrestricted love for her family.
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