I was always very fond of my great aunt and uncle. Aunt Edna was my mom’s aunt, my grandmother’s youngest sister. Since my Nanny died when I was six, Aunt Edna had become my surrogate grandmother. She’d been married to Uncle Hal since Creation and since they had no kids of their own, my sisters and my scads of cousins became “her grandkids”.
A little something about Aunt Edna, if I may. She was a bawdy old bitty and loved dirty jokes. At first glance, she was the picture of propriety; you’d never know she was, well…as foul as she was. Let me put it this way, I never knew how that old riddle, “There once was a man from Nantucket” ended…..UNTIL Aunt Edna told me. The older I got, the more fun she and Uncle Hal were.
They had an interesting relationship. They teased each other a lot and pretended that each one was the bane of the other’s existence. I was at their house once and Uncle Hal had been in his easy chair reading the paper when Aunt Edna entered the room and demanded that Hal do something for her.
He ignored her.
She asked again, louder and more emphatically.
He slowly pulled the paper down beneath his eyes, glared at her and asked, “Aren’t you dead yet?”
I remember a time when I was in sixth grade and was visiting their home. Aunt Edna and a friend were drinking coffee in the living room when Uncle Hal came home from work. I heard Edna giggle when she whispered, “Oh, did you hear that? Hal–20 seconds–Monroe just got home!”. Then they both laughed. I had NO IDEA what that meant until five grades later when I began dating Paul–17 seconds–Murphy. Then, I understood.
Oh, how I understood!!!
They teased each other like that all the time–he made jokes about her being fat; she teased him about being short and bald, but through the haranguing, you could see there was a deep, abiding love between them.
They died a year apart back in the early 80’s and I miss them. Edna died first and we were convinced that a broken heart lead Hal to follow suit ten months later. It wasn’t long after their deaths that my mother conveyed a story about Aunt Edna and Uncle Hal that made me laugh then and still makes me laugh to this day. It’s just so typical of them and their funny, happy life together.
Edna met Hal when she was living in Virginia. He was in the Navy and it was love at first site. They married six months after they met and from that point on, Aunt Edna became a global citizen. She moved around the world with him for a while and thy lived in some fairly exotic ports of call. When his naval commission was up, they decided to move to Texas. Edna was homesick and the state piqued Uncle Hal’s interest. He’d been all over the planet, but he’d never been to Texas. He had this incredibly romanticized notion of Texas–oil, cowboys, beef, more cowboys. He wanted to be a Texan and all that that implied. And to his Yankee sensibilities, that meant wrestling steers, eating a 100 ounce steak every other day, getting an oil well or two for his front yard. He also wanted to visit the Alamo, watch the Cowboys play anybody and of course, he wanted to own a pair of authentic Western boots, by God.
Or by Tony Llama. He made it clear he wouldn’t be picky.
The story my mother tells, goes on to say that one day, not long after they moved back to home, Hal started compiling a list of things he wanted to do and see in Texas. First on his list?
Custom made leather cowboy boots.
A few weeks later, Hal want to a boot maker in San Antonio who crafted him a pair of beautiful two-tone brown leather boots. He never mentioned to Edna he was having them made; he wanted to surprise her.
He came home one afternoon, sporting his new boots and walked in the kitchen where Aunt Edna was cooking and he asked her, “Say Edna….notice anything different about me?”
Edna never looked up and said, “Nope.”
“Now, come on Edna, you didn’t even look at me!”
She stopped pealing potatoes and sighed as she looked Hal over, head to toe.
“OK Hal, you look like you don’t have B.O. today. Is that it? Did you bathe?”
Frustrated, Hal stormed off to their bedroom as Edna continued to peal the spuds.
He came back a few minutes later and sauntered by her wearing nothing at all BUT the new boots.
“Notice anything different NOW, Edna?”
Once again, Edna stopped pealing the potatoes and once again, looked at her husband. She gazed at his body, then looked him straight in the eye and said, “Hal, all I see is Mr. Mediocre. He’s hanging straight down today, just like he hung straight down yesterday and just like he’ll hang straight down tomorrow!!”
Dejected, Hal replied, “He’s hangin’ down ’cause he’s lookin’ down at my new boots. See Edna? They’re pretty, aren’t they?”
Edna returned to her potatoes and said with a smile, “Should have bought a new hat, Hal. Shoulda bought a new hat!”