Here is another work in progress for my Writing class. Feel free to waste time for which you should be studying (my partners in crime) or looking for cute boys in work (my dear old roommate who I will not name) and read the story. Mostly I posted it for mom (even though I already read it to her) and Granny (mostly) because I think you'll most enjoy it.
Topic: write a couple of pages about an eccentric member of your family.
Meeting the Unknown
Visiting a far away aunt and uncle or grandparent is like a rite of passage- leave home, spend two weeks looking at hundreds of yellowed photos, play cards with old people and leave thinking you’re so much older and wiser for having spent two weeks with the oldest people you know.
My rite of passage came the summer after 8th grade. I was on a plane from California to Ohio visiting my great great aunt and uncle. Aunt Daisy and I just got to know each other at my grandparents anniversary party- she was a breast cancer survivor, inching her way towards 80 while still carrying a drivers license and a love for cards that beat any opponents hand. She was really the reason I was going to Ohio. I was about to spend two weeks with a fun old lady whom I recently met, but was sure would show me a good time. Her husband, Uncle Wallace, was something of a question mark to me. The only things I knew about him could take up the space on his bald head: married Daisy young, likes God and does not like to be called Wally. Somehow my entire family called him Wally when he wasn’t around (which was never) so saying Uncle Wallace would take some discipline on my part. I arrived in Canton, Ohio slightly nervous to meet a mysterious man I needed to affectionately call Uncle.
At the time, there were not many men in my family- no one could seem to procreate anything but girls and the only men I had developed relationships with, besides my dad, were my kind, but gruff grandpas. The idea of spending two weeks with a man who may or may not want to spend time with me was slightly terrifying.
Nonetheless, I was excited for my trip and arrived at Aunt Daisy and Uncle Wallace’s three bedroom house, with a tomato garden bigger than their first floor, smiling. When Aunt Daisy and I arrived I remember seeing Uncle Wallace sitting in a corduroy covered chair the color of brown mustard. Aunt Daisy bellowed in his direction.
“Wallace. Wallace! Ali is here from California,” she said with her cleft palette as she touched my shoulder.
Uncle Wallace adjusted his hearing aide and looked up from his local newspaper.
“Oh, nice of you to be here, Allison,” Uncle Wallace said as he smiled at me while rubbing the top of his head. I smiled back and we both surveyed each other: him through his thick black, plastic framed glasses and me through young, bright eyes. I could already tell that despite the mountain sized distance between us, I found the quirky man in the plaid blue shirt and charcoal grey slacks amusing, if nothing else.
It didn’t take long for my curiosity for Uncle Wallace to develop. Soon after I arrived I unpacked my travel essentials in the guest room upstairs. I folded my clothes and placed them in the dresser, that probably had nothing in it for twenty year, and lined my toiletries on the vanity stacked with books with titles like Mommy Dearest, Lily’s Wish and Love After Midnight.
“Ali, I’m going to pick some tomatoes from the garden if you want to help,” I heard Aunt Daisy say between her Ohio accent and an excitement to have her daily routine mixed up for two weeks by a 13 year old.
“Okay, I’m coming,” I replied, while thinking of a way to mask the smell of emptiness, moth balls and dust that housed the room.
I galloped down the staircase and changed my gait to a calm walk a few steps before the living room. I immediately looked in the corner of the room to see if Uncle Wallace was quietly sitting in his chair, but all that sat in the corner was a tall clear glass filled with some sort of liquid that had a clone like resemblance to the chair it sat beside.
I shrugged my shoulders and walked into the kitchen to find Aunt Daisy.
“Um, hi Uncle Wally, er, Wallace, is Aunt Daisy outside?” I asked quietly, hoping I wasn’t disturbing him from whatever he seemed to be doing at the table.
“Yes, dear girl, she’s outside. Go through the mud room.” He didn’t look up from the disarray laid before him on the plastic tablecloth, but he tilted his head up as if to point like the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz does.
A mud room. What was a mud room? This was my first indication that I might need to speak a new language to visit Ohio. I assumed his head tilt was my best clue, but paused before I walked away.
As I looked at Uncle Wallace, glasses pressed closely against his nose, hands working on a machine that I assumed he bought from some 22 year old sales boy looking to be employee of the month, I was struck by something large on his head. I walked past him, hoping to get a better look and saw that a thick piece of medical tape covered something the size of a golf ball. I walked through the mud room to the garden, anxious to ask the only person I really knew in Ohio who the man in the kitchen was.
After about five minutes of putting tomatoes the size and color of apples into old wicker baskets, I decided to casually ask Aunt Daisy questions about Uncle Wallace. The only problem was I felt strange asking her about the giant UFO on her husband’s head. Would she think I was silly or making fun of him?
“These tomatoes look so good,” I said. (I was off to a fabulous start.)
“We eat them like apples around here. I remember how much you liked them in California.” She smiled as she plopped another three in the basket I held.
“Yeah, I love them. Does Uncle Wally like tomatoes?”
“Oh yes, he likes most vegetables. Especially for those ridiculous smoothies he makes.”
“I know, he makes me so mad. All these years he tells me, ‘Daisy, we don’t eat enough vegetables. I need more vitamins.’” “So, I planted more tomatoes, cooked more vegetables. Then he tells me, ‘Daisy, I need more vitamins, I’m getting older and my skin needs certain vitamins to stay young.’” “This was three years ago- his skin was already old and nothing vegetables have can help an old man like him.”
I laughed. “Did you tell him that?”
“Of course I did, that old crow, but that made him angry, which made him want to get me angry. Something he’s very good at.”
“What happened?” I asked, as I put the basket down and picked a few tomatoes while keeping my eyes on the story teller beside me.
“The next day he goes out to buy some groceries- vegetables probably- and comes back in the house with some contraption. He didn’t need to ask what I thought of it because the moment he set it on the table my eyes told him:. He went on and on about how a Vegetable juicer/Smoothie Maker would take care of all his needs and how I could cook less vegetables now. I opened the cupboard behind him and showed him the five other contraptions he bought in the past two years for his skin, lack of hair, eyes and every other health reason he could make up.” She started laughing.
“Why are you laughing?” I asked, curious, although I had an itching to follow suit.
“Because it’s funny. I have no reason to be mad now. It’s funnier to see that old man in there reading about the benefits of squeezed vegetables, which I know don’t do a damn thing.”
We both looked at each other and smiled before returning to the hundreds of tomatoes that spotted the garden like giant baseballs.
I wasn’t ready to ask Uncle Wallace about his fascination for healthful foods, aging tricks, or even his love for church, but I knew that these two weeks would be a learning experience even if it was just through Aunt Daisy.
After a couple minutes of picking in silence, I bit the side of my lip and looked at my aunt.
“Aunt Daisy? Um, I have one more question about Uncle Wallace.” I continued to pick tomatoes, avoiding eye contact with her.
“You want to know what that damn thing on his head is, don’t you?”
I turned my head toward her quickly and nodded.