Great Aunt Maude: attitude versus magnolias

Until recently, I thought my ancestors with attitude were limited to my mother’s side. My granny was a hardy, bawdy Texan homestead type who taught my mom, my sister, and me, basically from the cradle, not to take shit from anybody.

Members of the Mississippi contingent, on the other hand, tend to be conspicuously proper. They know how to play bridge and use lobster forks, and most of their aggression is passive, concealed behind a “bless her heart.”

In recent years, though, I’ve heard snippets about my father’s Great Aunt Maude, who died before I was born, and evidently was quite the firebrand.

Maude got married in her 30’s (late for the time) and was hitched for only a short time before she decided that holy matrimony was not in the cards for her. I’m not sure she bothered to discuss this decision with her husband.

But I do know — and this is a direct quote from my grandfather — that she “threw pepper in his eyes until he stopped coming around.”

Unfortunately, you now know the only story about Great Aunt Maude that I’ve ever heard in full. Most of the time Grandma cuts my grandfather off before he gets to the good part.

“Well, you know what they say about old Maude,” Grandpa will say. “There was this one time . . .”

Grandma interrupts. “They don’t want to hear that old story!”

Me: Yes, we do! We do.

Sister: Yes, we really do.

Grandpa: You see, Lois? They want to know.

Grandma: I just don’t understand why we can’t focus on something positive.

Grandpa (ignoring her): Now, way back when, Maude built her own house.

Me: She built it?

Grandpa: Well, she designed it and had someone else build it and sat out in a lawn chair with a big hat on and watched to make sure they followed her plans. If she didn’t like–

Grandma: Why can’t we talk about something pleasant?

Me: What’s unpleasant?

Grandpa: You haven’t heard the whole story yet.

Grandma: Look at that magnolia tree! Isn’t it beautiful?

Grandpa: Sure is. Looks like the Troys had it cut back.

Me: It’s great. But back to Maude and her house.

Grandpa: Well, I’d better tell that one another day.

Grandma: I don’t know why the Smiths haven’t taken down their Christmas decorations yet! It’s after the New Year.

Grandpa: It’s January 3.

Grandma: It’s just disgraceful the way they leave those lights up.

So I don’t know half of the stories out there. And my grandfather is old enough that he’s starting to forget them.


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