Grandma Ginger and her sister, my Great-Aunt Rosemary, grew up in the same family. One would think they would have compatible memories. One would think…
I drove the two feisty geriatrics to their sister’s for a much anticipated reunion. Her name is Pepper. I guess their parents thought those seasoning names would be cute, seeing as how their last name was Spice .
Day one began well enough. Grandma Ginger was so eager to be off she was sitting on her front porch as if waiting for a bus. Her suitcase was standing by for my easy retrieval.My first thought as I ran up to assist her was, what a lovely picture of tranquility.
“Morning Gram, great day for traveling, huh?”
“Oh my, yes…and I’m glad to be picked up first so I can sit up front with you.”
Rosemary was not waiting on her porch. Grandma Ginger pursed her lips. In a few seconds she had to make a comment or burst.
“Harrumph! You’d think Rosie would be ready. We’ve only been planning this for six months.”
I told her to sit tight and I would go check. I found Rosemary sitting in her favorite old glider.
“Hey, Auntie Rose. Are you ready to go?”
She looked up with unshed tears.
“I don’t think I can do this.”
“Do what, Sweetie?”
“Drive all that way with Ginger in the car and then see folks I haven’t seen in nearly a lifetime.”
Then she whispered, “You know, dear…your grandmother’s memory is shot. She gets everything so mixed up.”
I tried not to laugh, having just heard the exact words from her sister.
“Oh come on, Aunt Rosie. This will be fun.”
What was I thinking?
Rosemary grabbed her little suitcase and sped around to the waiting car. She came to a screeching halt when she realized the front seat was occupied. That’s when the moaning began. Since she started off on the wrong foot I assumed she must have stumped her toe.
“What happened? Are you hurt?”
“I get sick in the back seat. Ginger, get out!”
By then Grandma had rolled down the window and had her own say.
“Rosemary Spice Duncan, that happened once back when we were kids. You do NOT get car sick. Get in!”
Rosie must have decided a confrontation this early wasn’t worth it, so she climbed in and buckled up. Now she could do some serious backseat driving.
Grandma Ginger tried to make peace by talking about the reunion.
“I wonder if Cousin Jack will be there?”
A quiet voice behind us declared,”He died.”
Grandma twisted as far as she could to peer between the seats at her sister.
“Jack most certainly is not dead, Rosemary!”
“Well, I guess I know. I went to his funeral.”
“That’s not true. He lives in England, and I‘m pretty sure you wouldn’t get on a boat or an airplane.”
“He lives in New England, you goofy old lady. There’s a whole ocean between those two places.”
No one said anything for a blessed few seconds. Then Grandma had to make one more poke.
“Jack is very much alive.”
“How do you know? Have you talked to him?”
We rolled down that ribbon of road to the tune of stereophonic arguments over who was correct about what memory. At one point, they both retired to the back seat so they could fight up close.
Ten miles from Aunt Pepper’s house, the state of Jack’s disposition came back under fire.
“Ginger, I just know Cousin Jack died. He had a disease, or a heart thing, or maybe it was his brain that gave out.”
“Rosie, please don’t embarrass me at this family shindig. I’m telling you HE IS ALIVE. In fact, I hope he is here and then you’ll shut up.”
Aunt Pepper, the younger and more sensible one, ran out to the car as her siblings were crawling out of the back seat. She held each one’s hand as they went inside for some cool lemonade. I knew what was coming, but didn’t have time to warn her. Grandma Ginger started it.
“Sister, we’ve been having a little difference of opinion about Cousin Jack. I think he lives in England and Rosie says he’s dead. What do you think?
I knew Pepper was a girl after my own heart when she offered each of them a sugar cookie, and with the sweetest demeanor, made the definitive comment.
“Why girls… we don’t have a Cousin Jack.”
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