Every now and then, I’ll see or do something that instantly takes me back to a moment or memory of my childhood. It’s like a good kind of PTSD, because most of my childhood memories are pretty awesome. (Which either means my childhood itself was awesome, or I have repressed a lot of shit.)
I experienced this holy-cow-I'm-four-years-old-again phenomenon (or is it phenomena? I'm too lazy to look it up) when I got home from work this afternoon. I opened the fridge and saw three Diet Cokes and two bottles of wine. I automatically thought “Full House. I win!” And that made me think of my Aunt Joy.
Now, my Aunt Joy was actually my Great Aunt Joy because she was my mom’s Aunt Joy because she was my mom’s dad’s younger sister. You got that? Anyway, when it came down to it, she was just Aunt Joy. Looking back now, I realize that she was probably only in her 50’s during the times I was around her as a little girl, but I remember her as being really OLD. (Sorry about that, Aunt Joy. I was toddler/little kid, what did I know?) I also remember her as being really ladylike. And nice. And she was always dressed well and had her hair done. And she ALWAYS used her indoor voice. (Hard to believe we’re related, huh?) Now that I think about it, my memories of her are actually pretty similar to what I remember of Mrs. Cleaver from Leave It to Beaver. That's a pretty good compliment for Mrs. Cleaver.
Anyway, Mom and I would go over to visit Aunt Joy or pick her up to go have lunch at Furr’s Cafeteria, which cute little toddler Shelley would call Furr’s “Catateria”, which would make Aunt Joy proclaim me to be the smartest little girl ever. (Clearly, she knew her stuff.) Whenever we were around Aunt Joy, she pretty much spoiled me with attention. Her kids had been all boys, and she didn’t have any granddaughters yet at that point, so I think she was happy to have the chance to spoil a little girl. But spoiling me is not really what I remember her for. See, until we left Odessa when I was 5, Mom and Dad would occasionally drop me off so Aunt Joy could babysit and I have two memories from these times which are what come to mind when I think of Aunt Joy.
The first memory has to do with the things in Aunt Joy’s kitchen. She kept Christmas towels out all year long. Not because she was a Christmas fanatic or an eccentric old lady or anything. She kept them out all year because she could buy kitchen towels that had “Joy” stitched on them at Christmastime, and that was her name. It didn't matter to her that they were covered in Christmas trees and holly. Being Christmas towels, they were red, of course. In fact, it wasn't just the towels that were red. She had that whole kitchen decorated with red stuff, including the breakfast table that looked alot like something you’d find in 50's-style diner. The tabletop was red and the seats of the chairs were red. I thought that was pretty strange because I had never seen a house with red stuff in the kitchen. Looking back now, it’s kinda funny I reacted like that because my own mom had painted the cabinets in our kitchen popsicle orange, and yet it was the red stuff that I thought was weird.
Besides her kitchen, the other thing that really stands out in my memories of my Aunt Joy is that she, my sweet and dainty west Texas Mrs.Cleaver, is the person who taught me how to play poker. Remember how she thought I was the smartest little girl ever? Well, as soon as I was old enough to know my numbers, she decided I was smart enough to play cards, so she cracked open a deck and started dealing me in. She taught me what was a good poker hand, what was a bad poker hand and how to figure out which cards to keep and which cards to throw away. She taught me the winning combinations, too, like 4 of a kind, straight, flush, and of course, full house. I was pretty good at knowing what to keep or throw away, and what made a good hand, but the one thing I had a hard time remembering was which combination beat which (still have trouble with that to this day), so anytime I got a full house, I won...at least as far as I was concerned. My parents found out I had learned poker because once when we went on a family fishing trip, I caught a bunch of little fish, 3 perch and 2 crappie to be specific, and I announced that I had a full house of fish. Needless to say, they were a little taken off guard. Me? I’m just surprised that I didn’t end my full house of fish announcement with “I WIN!”