The Legend of Aunt Annie


The Legend of Aunt Annie

Every family has one—she’s above the daily fray.
She’s excessive in her grooming—perfect in every way.
Her complexion is unblemished. She is seamless, smooth and pale.
She dare not lift a finger, lest she break a fingernail.
But her understated elegance had galvanized our wishes
that for one time in our lives, we’d see her do the dishes—
put on a kitchen apron over her silken ruffles
and rid sticky hors d’ oeuvre plates of anchovy paste and truffles.

It was our New Year’s resolution to see sweat upon her brow,
so at our family gathering, we made it our vow
to extract some elbow grease from languid Auntie Annie
by urging her to heft herself up off her dainty fanny
to assist us in the cleaning up, for though we all just loved her,
we would not be satisfied until we’d rubber gloved her!

Before the clock struck midnight on this New Year’s Eve,
we’d create a family legend no one absent would believe.
We’d get her drunk on cordial and execute our plot.
We installed her on the sofa and brought her her first shot.
Then we began our web of lies as we spun out the story
of a family legend as old as it was gory
of a New Year’s curse found on parchment cracked and old
stuck in the family Bible, caked with a crust of mold.

It told of an ancient act too lurid to retell—
so vile its perpetrator was consigned to Hell
and forever afterwards, this family had been cursed.
(By what I just had to ad lib, for we had not rehearsed
the details of the story, so off-the-cuff I said
that gone unatoned by midnight, one of us would be dead.)
The family roiled and tutted and feigned a great duress.
Meanwhile, dear Aunt Annie smoothed the wrinkles from her dress
and held her small glass out for another wee small taste,
lest the remaining cordial should simply go to waste.

The rest of us continued with our impromptu telling
of the misdeed and the cursing and the dying and the Helling.
“If every one of us does not atone by midnight,” I then said,
“by the final toll of midnight, our eldest will be dead!!!
Someone jabbed Aunt Annie with an elbow to point out
that she, indeed, was eldest, without a single doubt.
“Quick, Auntie, to the kitchen. You must wash your hands of blame!”
shouted all of us, complicit in this New Year’s game.
“And while you are at it, perhaps you could wash some dishes,”
said the youngest one of us, expressing all our wishes.

Whereupon our auntie heaved herself up to her feet,
strolled into the kitchen, and without missing a beat,
put her plate under the faucet, swabbed it with a sponge,
and the oil of fish and mushroom managed to expunge.
Then she dried her hands and turned around, the best to face us all.
drew her lips into a line, her fists into a ball,
and told us that for years now she’d been longing for just this—
to wash her hands of all of us, and with a final hiss,
she turned upon her heel and marched out of the front door
got in her car and drove away–straight into family lore!

We don’t know what became of her but ever since that night
whenever, at clan gatherings, the kids begin to fight
about who should do the dishes, you can bet someone will tell
the story of how Annie escaped the jaws of Hell
by taking her turn at dishes, and it’s true that not a kid
believes the story any more than our Aunt Annie did!

Word prompts for the last day of 2020 are understated elegance, galvanize, wishes and resolution. Image by Wilhelm Gunkel on Unsplash, used with permission.

27 thoughts on “The Legend of Aunt Annie

  1. SAM VOELKER

    Great story, My “Aunt Annie” was my middle sister, who always could find a way of getting out of her turn of helping with the dishes. She would say: “when I get married, I am going to live in an RV, only using paper plates, and when they are dirty I will throw them out the window~! She almost did,,, but as far as I know, she never did her own dishes~! Yes, she was “daddy’s pet” and rather prudish too (at least in our minds~!) Oh memories~!

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    1. lifelessons Post author

      Well I dedicate this fictional tale to your middle sister, Sam. Our similar relative was my 11 year older sister Betty Jo who would get up after a meal and say, “Mother, you rest and we’ll do the dishes. Patti, you wash and Judy, you wipe! Then she would go to her room and read a book. Ha.

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      1. SAM VOELKER

        Ha ha~! Yes this is almost her words exactly, and she too was my middle sister at the time. She did have “different ways” from the rest of us, a beautiful girl, very smart, tiny with the same very dark hair; as my dad. We called her “Tee”, French for tiny, due to her deminative size. She often told us that she could not possibly be our real sister, but we all loved her equally and she was the spitting image of my father. Later in life she thought that children should be treated as “friends” rather than her children or descendants and she raise them that way….She also decided to change her name to “Tia”, Aunt in Spanish, now isn’t that dumb~? Now they are lost in your neck of the woods, as you already know~!

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          1. SAM VOELKER

            In one way Tee and I were rather alike, mostly in the fact that we were both Liberal minded, and I did look after her in a way, in later years. As you know her oldest daughter lived with us from when she was a small baby, until she was over six years old. The other two children came along after I was no longer living near them, and along with other reasons, did not much come to know them very well as adults.

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  2. isaiah46ministries

    I had an aunt name Annie who was a character, too. One time I tried to show my educated self and called her Aunt Ann, not Ain’t Ann, which is how we say it in the South. She immediately asked me, “When did you get white?” And proceeded to tell me off about thinking I was better because I knew a few big words. Well, that never happened again! She was the person sent the so-called bad children, because by the time they had spent a week with Ain’t Ann, there wasn’t any more delinquency and they were glad to go home and behave. Ain’t Ann believed dearly that one should not “spare the rod,” and she didn’t understand moderation when using the rod. She was a legend in the family. Loved the story. You are a true Wordsmith!

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  3. Carol

    What a wonderful poem. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It reminded me of some of the poems my grandmother used to read to me when I was little. I wish she were here to appreciate it. Her sister, Anna, was a free-spirit that often got in trouble, whereas my grandmother was the faithful rule follower who frequently carried the burden of bailing her sister out. I’m sure that doing Auntie Anna’s share of the dishes was on the list of my grandmother’s rescues.

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