Friday, November 18, 2016

That’s Just the Way She Is

I have nothing against honesty.  All things being equal, it is usually the best policy. 





But when someone says, “May I be completely honest with you?” do both of you a favor and say politely, “No, thank you,” because what follows will probably be rudeness masquerading as honesty.  In fact, the mask of honesty is worn by a whole host of miscreants these days, the most insidious of whom are those who have deluded themselves into thinking they’re actually doing or saying this or that “for your own good.”  



They come in all shapes and sizes, these relentless do-gooders.  But the one thing they have in common is that they’ve watched enough Oprah and Dr. Phil to convince themselves that they know what’s good for you, even if you don’t. 



That's Aunt Emily Standing Next to Grandfather George Holding His Favorite Violin.
Note the Cat Lounging on Top of the Piano. Obviously NOT a Music Lover.  I Remember Hearing Grandfather George Play the Violin.  OUCH!!

I come from a long line of strong-willed women with all manner of idiosyncrasies.  My mother’s Aunt Emily, a spinster, was Executive Secretary to the head of Strawbridge & Clothier for more years than anyone could remember.  Every morning she left the house at precisely the same time, impeccably coiffed and groomed, and every evening she returned at precisely the same time in exactly the same condition. 

Except to go to work, Emily never went out.  The day she retired, she left the office, returned home and never left the house again.  Her sister, Annie, a widow, was a real “gad about,” as they used to call her.  You couldn’t keep her in the house.  She dropped in on us frequently, but if we wanted to see Emily, we had to go to the huge, three-story stone home in west Philadelphia where the sisters held court. 

They loved having guests, especially the unexpected kind.  Annie always came to the door, took one look, put her hands to her face in mock surprise and said, “Emily, you’ll never guess who’s here!” even if we were expected. 

Emily chain smoked and drank her way to a ripe old age.  Until the day she died she was considered a handsome woman and had been a great beauty in her youth.  She was known for her potent Manhattans and powerful hugs.  A kid could get lost in an embrace like that.  I remember asking my mother once why Aunt Emily never went anywhere and she said simply, “That’s just the way she is.”  I never asked again.  I didn’t need to. 

Annie came to all my dance recitals, spelling bees, award ceremonies, all the big and little milestones in a kid’s life, and enjoyed every one of them.  When she went home, she told Emily all about it.  No detail was too small to go unnoted.  And the next time I saw Emily she would say, “I heard you were the tops, kid!”  Then she’d ask me about it all over again.  I adored these two women. 

Emily died first and Annie followed soon after.  I was in my late teens by then.  I miss them both to this day and would give anything to have them back.  But, truth to tell, I’m glad Emily’s gone.  If she were alive today, she would be told there was something wrong with her, that her refusal to leave the safety of her home masked a deep-seated fear of the unknown or repressed rage at an unnurturing mother or some such nonsense.  She would be labeled agoraphobic or fill-in-the-phobic and told she had to face her fear/rage, work through it and get past it before she could be truly whole. 

By now, the once proud and regal Emily would be reduced to cowering in a corner, hands clamped over her ears in an attempt to drown out the sounds of hundreds, nay thousands, of professional do-gooders pounding at her door ready to drag her, kicking and screaming, out of her ancestral home “for her own good.” 


Then again, knowing Aunt Emily, she’d probably invite them all in, whip up a batch of her killer Manhattans and set them all straight --- because that’s just the way she was.  


12 comments:

  1. Dear M-T,
    The portrait you painted made for a warm and tender story with a bite to it. I think there may be both some Emily and Annie in you. Great the way you wrapped it around coming back to the start and the touch of honesty gives it sardonic humor. Great storytelling! I'm curious where is great-grandmother or is it great-grandfather?

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    1. I suspect you are right, Linda. I can happily stay at home like Great Aunt Emily for days and days with nothing but my cats, my books and a cup of tea for company; then, I feel the need to "gad about" like Aunt Annie and socialize. And I love having visitors.

      Annie and Emily were my grandfather George's sisters, which made them my great aunts. Grandfather George died when I was four, but I have very vivid memories of him. He was a special man in so many ways. I miss him, too.

      Thanks for stopping by, dear friend,

      M-T

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  2. Marie-Therese, your story brightened my morning. Thank you.

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    1. I'm so glad I was able to bring a smile to your morning. They often need a bit of brightening. I know mine do.

      Thank you for stopping by.

      Cheers, M-T

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  3. I agree I think people should be left alone to live the lives they want to. I have always found it irritating when people give me advice and think that they know better than I do. We rarely take others advice.

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    1. I feel the same, Josephine. It never occurred to anyone in the family that there was anything "wrong" w/Aunt Emily that needed "fixing." She was a happy, fulfilled woman who lived life the way she wanted to. We should all be so lucky.

      Thanks for stopping by. So sorry you went through a bad health patch, but am so glad it's all behind you.

      Cheers, M-T

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  4. I think your aunts were wonderful and yes, too much judging going on today.

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    1. I agree. Making judgments is absolutely necessary when you are trying to teach your children right from wrong, but behavior that may seem odd to one is the other's normal.

      Yes, my aunts were absolutely quirky and wonderful, as was the rest of that branch of the family. Sadly, they are all gone now.

      Happy Thanksgiving, Erika, and thanks for stopping by.

      Cheers, M-T

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  5. What a great family picture. It's lovely getting a glimpse into the sister's lives and personalities. Emily had eveything she needed in her own home, so there was no need for her to go out. I wonder what she might have done if she had outlived her sister, Annie. Would she have again ventured out to run the errands her sister took care of? I bet so. She was ahead of her time in many ways. I remember when people smoked like your great aunt. No one thought anything of it. Mad Men, the televion show, captured the smoking and afternoon drinks even at the office!

    It doesn't take long to live a life, does it? Sigh!!


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    1. Your comment is so beautifully put. Aunt Emily did, indeed, have everything she needed at home. As I remember, she was most comfortable around men, since she worked in what was essentially a "man's" world. I think, had Aunt Annie died first, she would have done what she needed to do without hesitation, one of my definitions of a "strong" woman. Should do a post on that some time.

      Always enjoy when you stop by.

      Happy Thanksgiving, Debra.

      Cheers, M-T

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  6. Dearest Marie-Thérèse,
    Yeah, starting out with Honest Abe...
    Love the story of your Mother's Aunt Emily and it is so very true. Now we live in an era where such a vast number of jobs have been created, just for the purpose of 'naming' all sorts of illnesses and wrong doings. We were happy than, living in a peaceful time with simple lives. Loved the way you described it!
    Let's hope we will be able to revive some of it, to get rid of the overdose on fringes... counselors and such.
    Sending you hugs,
    Mariette

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    Replies
    1. Dearest Mariette,

      Like you, I do long for a simpler life w/fewer "soi-disant" experts to meddle in our lives and tell us what we're doing wrong.

      Of course, the upside of life today is all the wonderful advances from which we benefit in terms of our health, but is our sense of well being what it once was? Somehow I think not.

      Anyway, life's a trade off and I've never been afraid of making choices.

      Always enjoy your thoughtful, wonderful comments, dear friend.

      Big "bisous" and Happy Thanksgiving,

      M-T

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