all of the selves we Have ever been
Our Auntie Mame
Running behind schedule one Sunday morning,
Aunt Addie grabbed her full length fur coat and put it on over her bra and panties. She slipped on some high heeled shoes and headed for church. Addie made no secret of her attire as the family left the house. No one was surprised. We all knew that Aunt Addie had reached a compromise with nature long before we were born. Nature would not defy her. Neither would we.
We also knew that if Aunt Addie got it into her mind to remove the coat during mass, she would not blink an eye or bother to look right or left. She would simply slide the luxurious fur off her shoulders and drape it over the back of the pew. When mass was over, she might put the coat back on or hang it over her arm and walk home. Aunt Addie’s philosophy was: go bold or go home, and if going home, go home boldly.
Once on a crowded department store escalator, Aunt Addie broke wind, thunder really, that trailed her for the entire ride down. She never flinched or even lowered an eyelash. She simply enjoyed the ride and stepped off at the bottom like royalty. Had Addie lived to see Donald Trump descend the escalator to launch his presidential campaign, she would have dismissed the performance: “A fart on an escalator? That’s already been done.” And then she would have inhaled deeply on her long cigarette and blown a smoke ring for emphasis.
Addie envisioned herself a kind of Auntie Mame, that Manhattan-dwelling, flamboyant, free-spirited aunt with an objectionable lifestyle, and a friend who ran a nudist school. Auntie Mame is famous for saying: “Life’s a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death.” Aunt Addie never missed a meal, and, generally, she was doing the cooking. We rode the waves of her moods into countless adventures.
Erasmus, Mark Twain, or somebody in between is credited with saying that the clothes make the man. I’m not so sure. It is my observation that women like my Aunt Addie who came from simple immigrant roots were fully formed before they purchased the fur coats and the designer fashions. Addie was smart enough to know that clothes gave her access, got her invited to the banquet, and so she acquired them. But those wardrobe items were simply props that embellished her already big personality and fed her appetite for living.
Some of us fret about having nothing to wear to the banquet, or that what we have isn’t good enough. We’re ashamed of the state of our underwear. And so, we don’t attend. Aunt Addie would have had none of that. She would have said, “Grab your coat, Doll, we’re going! Meet me in the Cadillac. It’s not the clothes, Doll; it’s the courage.”
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