The Unsinkable Aunt Bert

Saturday afternoon, I talked my Chipper into driving over to visit with his parents; after all, we only live an hour’s drive away from MeMe and Poppa Bear. Now I could let you believe that I’m the best daughter in law there ever was, but alas, my dangerously transparent self compels me to tell you that we went after more than chit chat and family bonding.  Truth is, Poppa Bear has a really nice tiller and…oh, the shame of admitting…we don’t own a decent shovel yet!  Seriously, how would we be able to justify having a 53 acre farm and not planting a vegetable garden?  That’d be like fixing a fresh tomato sandwich without slathering Dukes Mayonnaise over both slices of your bread!  Side note: As a Celiac, I haven’t had a slice of soft, squishy bread in ten years, but, it doesn’t stop my mouth from watering at the thought of that first bite when tomato juice and Dukes mayo mingle together.  Heaven!

Anyways, after we’d visited with my in-laws a while and Poppa Bear’s tiller was loaded in my…oh, um…about that.  The truck I’m driving presently isn’t mine, it’s our Poppa Bear’s. A few months before soon to be daughter in love, Nikki, graduated from nursing school, her worn out car died, so we loaned her our truck until she was financially able to buy another car. Being without a truck was okay while we lived the city life, but, you can’t live on a farm and not have a truck, so Chipper’s dad was kind enough to loan his 1984 Chevy Silverado to his favorite daughter in law. (Since I’m his only daughter in law, I haven’t done much to earn the title, but even if I had decent competition, I’m confident that I’d remain Poppa Bear’s favorite!)

Well, before we headed back to the farm, my Chipper suggested that we swing by to see his mom’s oldest sister, Bert.  Please allow me to introduce you to one of the most interesting, larger than life, characters I’ve ever met.  Though she is my kin by marriage only, Aunt Bert would be no more treasured in my heart if she were my true flesh and blood.

Bert is the epitome of what’s commonly defined as a well bred, refined, southern lady.  While I’m aware that we aren’t the only family tree to boast of these rare fruits dangling so gracefully from its branches, I’m prepared to declare that amongst the most beautiful of roses, Aunt Bert is the lone magnolia.  Almost eighty years old, I can’t rightly say exactly what it is that Aunt Bert has that most of us lack; but, whatever it is, her it is superior to most other people’s it!

Physically, Aunt Bert is downright glamorous.  She has the prettiest, clearest, blue eyes and a chic haircut for thick, naturally blond hair that refuses to turn gray.  Whether she is donned in jeans or a ball gown, center stage comes effortlessly to Aunt Bert.  Flamboyant and energetic, she has never lacked company!  I cannot tell you how many people have paid her to accompany them on vacations all over the world…just one more indication of the magnetic individual Aunt Bert is.

Now anybody remotely acquainted with this firecracker of a lady, knows that she reads constantly; and though I’m almost tempted to skip this part, thinking, thinking, sigh, sigh, what to do, what to do? Oh, what the heck!  I can’t describe Aunt Bert accurately if I don’t share the whole shebang!  While she’s an expert in a hundred different areas like cooking, gardening, English customs and extravagant decorating, Bert’s guilty pleasure are romance novels.  As she talks about the escapades going on in the pages of her latest read, her blue eyes dance when she refers to one of her dirty books.  You’ll never find this Southern Belle’s nose buried in just any cheap, tawdry tale!  Only the tastefully penned paperbacks with Fabio on the cover, dare to cross Aunt Bert’s eyes! (Pun not intended, but isn’t it clever? Aha,you got it) Even when dabbling in naughty behavior, Aunt Bert does it with the utmost of class!
When I joined Chip’s family waay back in November 1981, fru fru, Aunt Bert was a wee bit intimidating.  Not that she meant to be, but, as a valued executive with one of America’s major telephone companies, Aunt Bert wined and dined with rich folks all the time; she can hob knob with the very best of them!

Chipper says that when he was a little boy, going to Bert’s house was the equivalent of visiting a movie star’s home.  Aunt Bert and Uncle Bill’s house, he recalls, had all white carpeting and was full of expensive furniture & paintings. To sum it up, everything about her is exquisite. Side note:  Bill passed away many years ago after battling Lou Gehrig’s Disease, Years later, their only child, a son, Glenn, 50, suffered a fatal heart attack at the home he shared with Aunt Bert.  She still grieves the loss of the two men who made her world complete.

Much to everyone’s surprise, when Aunt Bert retired, she and Bill sold their grandiose suburban home and bought a small, quaint two bedroom, white clapboard cottage in Inman, S.C. By this time, Uncle Bill was confined to a wheelchair and barely able to leave home, so moving into something smaller made the upkeep easier for her to do alone. You should see how Bert’s fancy dust transformed an humble white bungalow into a show stopping, traffic halting dollhouse. For at least the first year or so, there was a nonstop parade of folks stopping to take pictures or comment on how adorable the house was.  I’m not sure who enjoyed their rags to riches storybook house more, the passers-by or Uncle Bill.  He’d sit for hours at the living room window or on the wraparound porch admiring the admirers! 😀

Back to the original theme:  Aunt Bert knows that as a pastor’s wife, I often entertain in our home, so over the years, she’s bestowed to me a collection of serving pieces and lovely china.  My absolute favorite is a twelve piece setting of Mikasa Margaux. Basically, if you spot anything in my kitchen of monetary value, chances are, it came from Bert.

Now back to Saturday’s visit.  Aunt Bert hugged us as soon as she opened the door, then led us into the living room where we discussed all the latest goings on within our close knit family.  While we updated her on Joshua and Jena and and their significant others, I gazed up at the grass colored high ceiling and like the times before, made a mental note about how elegant a smaller room looks if the ceiling is painted.  Side note: To be brutally honest, Aunt Bert’s style is a bit too fussy for my taste on a daily basis, but I always feel as if I’m somebody special visiting somebody really special whenever I’m at her house.

So anyways, after covering everything from horses to high tea, Aunt Bert stood up, headed to the kitchen and asked if we wanted something to drink. I pulled out a chair at the breakfast table by the window and requested some cranberry juice. **smile** Bert’s the only person I know who thinks nothing at all of pouring ordinary Ocean Spray cranberry juice into expensive crystal stemware. While I sipped my drink, I had an overdue epiphany.  Beverages, do indeed, taste much better in fancy glasses. SIDE NOTE:  Could you hold on to that thought! I’ll be coming back to reclaim it later!

By the time we got ready to leave, Bert had instructed Chipper to empty two shelves in the dining room hutch laden with Gorham Crystal iced tea goblets and matching water goblets. Back in the kitchen, she directed him to take down the beautiful parfait glasses on the top shelf while telling me her best recipes to put in them. Best of all, she finally gave me the dainty pudding dishes that I have secretly admired for years!  They first belonged to Chipper’s grandmother, Annie, and now that they are in my possession, I plan to delight yet to be born grandkids with wonderful treats served in those footed cups the way that MaMaw did. Those dishes will mesh MaMaw’s life with her great, great-grandchildren.

While I unwrapped the pieces and proceeded to put them away, it…..   GOT ME TO THINKIN….

Wouldn’t I enjoy my morning orange juice more if I sipped it from one of these exquisite glasses?  My mind wandered to the countless times I chastised my kids or my Chipper for pouring a drink in a good glass instead of getting one of the stained or chipped ones they were supposed to use.  “Good grief!”  I hissed.  “How many times do I have to tell you not to use the good glasses!  That’s what the plastic ones are for!”

A few times, I overheard a hiss back. “Well, Heaven forbid we actually drink out of of a good glass!  Why do you put them in the cabinet if we can’t use them?”

I know…don’t sweat the small stuff, Lis.  But, to tell you the truth, I really wish I hadn’t have been so stingy with the good glasses.  I wish I’d allowed Joshua and Jena to dunk their OREOS in fancy glasses of milk way more often and I wish that Chipper could’ve drunk his sweet tea in any glass he wanted.  It hurts my heart to know that this.. I wish… would’ve been so easy to bring about.  Why was I dead set about keeping those good glasses from doing the very thing what they were made to do in the first place?

I guess Aunt Bert figured out a long time ago that the joy of having fine things doesn’t come from just looking at  what you have, but, from enjoying and sharing things that bring you happiness.  As long as I’ve known Bert, she’s never drank her coffee or hot tea from a mug.  In fact, she packs a tea cup and saucer whenever she travels so that she doesn’t have to resort to styrofoam cups.

Occasionally, we have dropped in at Aunt Bert’s house, unannounced.  And, while the cookies may have been store bought, nothing ever merited being served to us on anything but one of her pretty plates!

I wonder why we reach for a flimsy Dixie cup and leave a fancy goblet sitting there?  It makes a lot better sense to put things to use instead of denying ourselves and others the privilege to do so.

OUR FATHER gives us the world and yet, we’re content to live like penniless paupers!  HE came to give us life more abundantly than we can begin to imagine!  The BIBLE promises that our GOD delights in giving good gifts to HIS children.  JEHOVAH loads us daily with benefits and yet, we whine and moan, worry and fret and act as if we have been sentenced to an eternity of misery rather than a paradise so divine that our minds can’t comprehend it.

Why do we wallow in the sackcloth and ashes of everyday struggles instead of lifting our eyes and being WOWED by the indescribable greatness of HIS GOOD HAND?

So, today I rearranged my cabinets and did what was once the unthinkable! I removed all those mismatched, ugly, glasses and stuck them in a dark cabinet. Yeppers! Open my glass cabinet now and you can choose to drink from an array of stemware in all shapes, colors and sizes.

Thanks to Aunt Bert, I’m so over my “don’t use the Good Glasses” phobia!  Cranberry juice anyone? Cheers! 😀

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