My Aunt, Irene was easily the most beautiful woman I had ever seen with my own two eyes. Teresa Smith was a close second.
My cousin used to go my Aunt Irene’s house without me. I didn’t know when she was going. I just knew when she came back.
In all my years, I only went to Aunt Reenie’s house a handful of times. Usually because someone needed to use the phone. And she had one.
Aunt Reenie had a vicious, pekingese dog appropriately named, “Rowdy.” (Rowdy is the southern word for vicious.) Whenever I went there, Rowdy was always outside in the yard on his leash, and he would bark up a storm at the sight of me!
Mouthy dogs always scared me as a kid, and Rowdy was no exception. But I so wanted to go into Aunt Reenie’s house; so I would wait nervously at the gate until she came out and calmed Rowdy down. Then I would run through the yard and up the steps to my Aunt Reenie’s porch.
Aunt Reenie’s house was always so clean and organized. She had wooden, plank floors that were always waxed and shiny. She had a couch and a coffee table that got pushed out of the way when she did her aerobics. (The coffee table, not the couch.) I don’t remember much about the kitchen, except that’s where the phone was. She also had a modern washer and dryer, not a washing machine with a washtub, like the one on Mamaw’s porch. In my mind, I always thought of Aunt Reenie’s house as a “real” house.
My Uncle Melvin drove a Mack truck full of coal. Driving a coal truck or being a coal miner were the only man-jobs I knew of as a kid. Later, I would find out about car salesmen, but that’s a different story. I always thought my Aunt Reenie was rich.
Aunt Reenie had beautiful hair. She was as beautiful as Dolly Parton. Everyone said Aunt Reenie wore wigs. I guess I never did see my Aunt Reenie’s natural hair. Aunt Reenie’s make-up was even more perfect. Long, dark lashes, rosy cheeks and full, shiny lips every time I saw her. Every. Time. Did I mention, she was the most beautiful woman I ever… Oh yeah, I did. Well she was.
I never understood why I didn’t get to go to my Aunt Irene’s house when my cousin did.
My Aunt Reenie was always nice to me. She even let me smoke her cigarette once. I asked her if I could try it, and when she was sure I really wanted to, she handed it to me. I put it in my mouth. I was smoking Aunt Reenie’s cigarette! (I thought I was something.) Then she told me to take a deep breath in. It was the nastiest thing I ever tasted! Not to mention, I almost choked to death! My Aunt Reenie took the cigarette back, and she never said a word about it. She’s the reason I never smoked.
My Aunt Reenie used to take us to beach. She had a tan that would rival Lonnie Anderson’s. I should know, my uncle Stevie had a poster of Lonnie on his wall. Or maybe it was Farah Fawcett. Either way, my Aunt Reenie’s tan met the highest standards.
My Aunt Reenie also bought me my first record. Oh, I paid for it myself. It cost me a dollar, forty five. But my Aunt Reenie got it for me. She was going across the mountain into town, and she picked it up for me. Hungry Like The Wolf by Duran Duran. It was a single. It had a green label. I don’t remember the song on the other side.
I get emotional when I look back at my Aunt Reenie. We moved away when I was 14. The adult me never got to know her. Sure, we visited a few times after we moved, but you can’t build a relationship in a couple of hours once a decade.
I will always look at my Aunt Reenie with kid-eyes. My memories of her are preserved in time. She will always be beautiful. She will always be fashionable. She will always be admired.
And, like all my mother’s sisters, she will always be one of my favorites. I love you, Aunt Reenie.