In honor of the holidays, AHF will explore contributions to literature, film, art and other humanities disciplines in the name of holiday spirit! Or, through the art of storytelling, we will tell you our favorite Christmas memories.
Today’s post is a guest submission by Lida Stewart, wife of Executive Director Robert Stewart.
These events would seem more believable in a work of fiction (say, as in one of my favorite Christmas movies, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” ) than (we hope) in the annals of real-life family histories. I credit the fact that no one was hurt and also my sister Ellen’s tremendous sense of humor and compassion that the rest of the family can remember the day as she does, with hilarity instead of alarm. I promise that all of what follows really did happen.
About 10 years ago, my Aunt M, last of her generation still alive, beyond age 90 my sisters and I figured (though for years she had always proudly kept the decade of her age a secret), came to our house for Christmas dinner. Aunt M was a funny, fun aunt. Josie, Ellen and I took her out to lunch occasionally. Especially after she became unable to drive, each of us would also take Aunt M to buy her groceries and do other errands. After she became more housebound, Ellen, a widowed mother of two, frequently shopped for and delivered groceries to Aunt M. Although Aunt M had an uncommonly comfortable and secure lifestyle, she always seemed to forget to reimburse Ellen. Ellen never minded though, as she loved Aunt M and her great sense of humor so much.
On that Christmas day Aunt M proved herself much sharper than any of us had suspected…
Early that afternoon I went to Aunt M’s home to pick her up. At the house, while out of Aunt M’s presence, her sitter/nurse quietly gave me a capsule to be emptied and mixed into her food, saying it would “make her a lot more pleasant to be around.”
Later at our house, Aunt M insisted that Ellen sit next to her at the dining room table “because you’re my favorite!” In the kitchen while filling Aunt M’s plate, I very discreetly mixed the medicine into her vegetable casserole.
Being the hostess, I made several trips into the kitchen during the meal. It was during one of these trips that Ellen started to pass her plate up for more vegetable casserole. Aunt M said sweetly, “Oh, no, I’ve barely touched mine, you just take mine here,” which Ellen graciously accepted.
The rest of the afternoon went happily as usual, opening gifts and just enjoying being together. As Ellen and her 15-year-old son Robby were leaving the house to take Aunt M home, Ellen realized and commented to Robby that she felt like she’d “been drugged” and that he’d (though he’d had his learner’s permit for barely two months) better do the driving. An interesting trip it was too. As Ellen recalls, Robby and Aunt M got into an argument at one “T” intersection when she kept insisting that turning onto someone’s front yard was the way to her house, and that she knew the way to her house because it was her house!
When finally back at Aunt M’s house, the sitter/nurse asked Ellen if we had given Aunt M the medicine in her food, and it all became clear. For the trip back to Ellen and Robby’s home, Ellen moved to the front seat (slumped over with her head against the window) “so they’d look legal in case a policeman stopped them.”
Never underestimate the power of an ancient elder…