Fourteen years old and I’m spending the summer with two kooky, old aunts! thought Mel, as he stood outside the gate of a once-lovely southern mansion, now aging ungracefully.
As he looked through the bars of the gate, Mel felt like a prisoner about to be guarded by two wardens.
What did I do to deserve this?
Well, his consequences brought him here. His parents, archeologists who traveled most of the time, were divorcing. As an only child, Mel felt more like the dirt on the old bones and broken pieces of pottery they dug up than a boy who was loved.
So, he joined a gang and got into trouble. He became selfish, head-strong, disrespectful, and his parents didn’t like it. Two options remained: military school or his eccentric aunts.
Mel opted for the aunts.
Suddenly, Aunt Sophie and Aunt Winnie burst out the front door, waddling down the sidewalk like two old geese. “Oh, my, just look how he’s grown,” they cackled, smothering Mel with hugs and kisses and pinching his cheeks.
Mel twisted and squirmed to get away from them. “Leave me alone!” he shouted. “I’m too old for that kind of stuff.”
Winking at each other, the two aunts knew exactly what he needed.
He felt smothered by aunts already. Sulking in his room, he decided to run away. He waited until midnight and then tiptoed down the hall. But when the floor squeaked, he froze. Right in front of Aunt Winnie’s bedroom door. He could hear her mumbling and didn’t pay much attention until he heard his name. Aunt Winnie was praying for him. Baffled, he frowned.
The floor squeaked again as Mel almost lost his balance. When Aunt Winnie stopped praying in mid-sentence, Mel quickly tiptoed back to his room.
Angry, Mel stared out his window for two days. He had packed enough snacks to curb his appetite, but no attempt by the aunts could pry him out of his room.
However, on the third morning, the smell of bacon and eggs woke him up. He was famished. He jumped out of bed and dressed himself as he ran down the stairs.
“Good morning, Melvin. Isn’t it a lovely day?” asked Aunt Winnie, grabbing her favorite red scarf off its hook and twirling it around.
“Don’t call me Melvin. I hate that name,” he grumbled.
She frowned, staring at him.
“What are you starin’ at?” he snarled.
“Oh, since you don’t like that name, I think I’ll call you Pickles.”
“Oh, great. Now a nickname I hate,” mumbled Mel.
“Too bad. That’s it.”
After Aunt Sophie prayed over breakfast and they all finished eating, Aunt Winnie stood up and said, “Have a good day, Pickles,” as she waved her scarf at him and danced her way out the back door. She called out, “Don’t forget. Andrew’s coming today.” And off she went, singing and twirling her scarf.
“Whoa!” said Mel, scrunching up his face. “What’s up with Aunt Winnie?”
“Well, I might as well tell you. Years ago, her fiancé gave her that red scarf when he left for the war. He never came back. It’s her scarlet symbol of love. As a nurse at an army hospital, she saw much suffering, so between that and his death, she hasn’t been the same. She talks to invisible souls. Maybe one is him. Who knows. She doesn’t bother anyone, and everyone loves her, so she’s happy.”
Mel sat there, contemplating happiness.
As she washed the dishes, Aunt Sophie said, “Oh, Mel, you can help Andrew today. He does chores for us. He’s just your age. I think you’ll like him. He’s a very nice boy.”
A nice boy, thought Mel. Who wants to be a nice boy? I want to be left alone, like Aunt Winnie. But deep down, he really wanted to be loved…like Aunt Winnie.
When Andrew came, Aunt Sophie introduced him to Mel, then said, “Andrew, why don’t you show Mel around town while you’re out.”
“Oh, yes ma’am. I will.”
“And we’ll see you in church tomorrow, right?”
“Oh, yes ma’am.”
Andrew’s manners jarred Mel.
As the boys made the rounds of the town and did chores, Mel watched Andrew. He saw a happy boy with manners and responsibility, who could have fun, help others out of unselfishness, and liked girls, too. His friends weren’t like this. He pondered over this.
The next day was Sunday, which meant church, because in 1955, almost everyone went to church on Sunday. So, Aunt Sophie woke Mel up early.
“What?” he grumbled, half asleep. “I have to go to church?”
“If you live in this house, you go to church on Sunday! God loves you and we want you to know that. Now get dressed.”
Mel wasn’t accustomed to so much parental discipline, but he was beginning to like it. After dressing, he went downstairs for breakfast, where Aunt Sophie and Aunt Winnie were almost finished eating.
Mel looked at Aunt Winnie and almost burst out laughing. He couldn’t remember the last time he thought something was funny.
But Aunt Winnie was a sight. Tilted to one side on her head sat a small, green hat with a big, purple ostrich feather sticking out of it. She had lipstick smeared all over her lips, stockings knotted at her knees, her pink slip hung below her yellow print dress, and she had on her good, white gloves and her scarf wrapped around her neck.
As if hearing his thoughts, Aunt Winnie said, “Pickles, what you really need is love and discipline and that’s what you’ll get from us. Because God loves you and so do we. No matter what.” And she kissed him on the cheek, leaving a big smudge of lipstick.
Mel stared at Aunt Winnie. Thoughts ran through his head. His eyes pooled with tears. Why would they love me?
Days turned into weeks and Mel began to feel accepted. Even loved.
Love, he thought, comes in the strangest packages. Maybe being smothered with aunts wasn’t so bad after all.
No matter how you look or what’s happened to you or how grumpy you are, you are accepted and loved by God.
Blessings of love and acceptance…Lynn
PS Sorry it’s longer than usual. I just felt like a story and couldn’t make it any shorter.