Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Friday Nights At Aunt Joan's House

Way back when my sister and I were too young to stay home alone on the rare occasions my parents went out for the evening, we were dropped off at Aunt Joan's on their way to the Mobile Greyhound Park. Why my parent's dates always involved the dog track is beyond me but it was. I always looked forward to spending the night at my Aunt Joan's house. She knew exactly how to make sleepovers at her house special for me, it didn't take a whole lot to keep me entertained. As long as she had plenty of Coca Cola and potato chips for the night, I was set.
Around the time that we arrived at her house, Aunt Joan and her daughters were usually putting the finishing touches on dinner which usually involved fried chicken or pork chops along with fried okra or fried squash, cornbread or biscuits and fresh peas or beans from one of Joan's fields and a big glass of sweet tea. My mom's cooking was sketchy at best aside from 2 or 3 dishes she knew how to cook well, so Aunt Joan definitely filled the void in the food department and dinner was always fabulous country cooking.
Aunt Joan was and is still one of the most special people I've ever met simply because I could feel and see the unconditional love in her heart for her kids, siblings and their kids. Many times while I was growing up, I wished my mom could be more like Joan...especially when it came to cooking. We were definitely a close knit family back in the day and still would be had it not been for several unfortunate incidents involving unruly family members as well as former family members. I'll touch on a few of those stories, including holiday brawls, in the future.
After dinner up until dark, all us kids would either go hang out on the patio, enclosed by iron fencing and end up in the fields or jumping on the trampoline...since I was the smallest, jumping wasn't an option, I just got on and pretty much just got bounced and driveled by everyone else jumping. Pretty much we had the run of the 13 acres of fields except we weren't allowed to go near "The Branch" which was a swampy area filled with snakes and whatever else we didn't want to run into. Once it got dark, we'd all alternate bath time among the 2 bathrooms, I can still remember the smell of Aunt Joan's soap. I'm not sure what she used but the closest I've found is bars of Coast Pacific Force. Once we were all clean, we'd head to the den. My Aunt's house was a normal sized 3 bedroom ranch style house with a huge den built onto it. The house sat on a 13 or so acre plot of land. The den, kitchen, dining room were the only rooms that we spent our time in since the rest of the house were just bedrooms, bathrooms and a living room which Joan used as a sewing room. Back then, I had an aversion to being in the same room with a sewing machine so I din't want to go in there. Nowadays, if I see a sewing machine...I'm all about checking out it's features. I kind of wish I took an interest in Aunt Joan's sewing, since she did a lot of sewing and even made a lot of clothes for her daughters, it would've been a great learning experience.

Anyway the den was a large room with minimal light, a TV in the corner, fireplace, a huge console stereo and a Fun Machine Organ. We'd make pallets on the floor with blankets and pillows then play board games and watch TV with what seemed to be an endless supply of chips and soda. Much like everyone back in that day, we had a choice of 5 or 6 channels and we all knew that we needed to be done with our game by 8 on Friday evenings because Dallas was not to be missed. We all needed to see what JR's next move was and if Sue Ellen would last an episode without getting drunk. Sometime during the evening, Aunt Joan would bring out the pickles...OMG...I'm not a fan of sweet pickles but her bread and butter pickles are the absolute BEST pickles EVER. She grew her own vegetables and would preserve them by canning them and filling a small room ajoined to her laundry room with mason jars full of pickles, blackberry jelly and anything else that looked good in jars. I wasn't big on veggies back then but when I was at Aunt Joan's house, if it was edible, it was good. By the time 11pm rolled along, I was wound down and usually passed out watching TV. Whatever happened next was beyond me...except for 1 time when my cousin Lynda's hamster, Herman, escaped (probably with help from Lynda) from his habitrail cage and I woke up to my sister and cousins, Marie and Lynda trying to corral Herman. Whoever says that hamsters can't see beyond 6 inches in front of them never met Herman, he knew exactly where he was heading.
The next morning, I usually woke up to the smell of bacon or sausage and eggs which meant mom and dad would be picking us up within the hour which usually passed too quickly. When my mom would arrive, she'd rush my sister and I into the car and never once ask us how our night was...I guess she didn't want to hear how much more fun it was at Aunt Joan's house than at our own...Especially since our own nightly routine was about the same minus the den, soda, chips, good food, pickles and a rodent being let loose in the house.

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