The Parlor

Aunt May lived in a sizeable white-clapboarded house not too far from the waterline at the cove. It was the house her maternal grandfather had built so he could keep an eye on his vessels. His granddaughter now lived in it alone since becoming a widow.
Her brothers watched over their sister and the house. All that was inside was Aunt May’s domain. The only thing outside the house that was within her mandate was the roses outside the kitchen window. She’d proudly tell you that they were her grandmothers. They were a gorgeous deep red, and the canes reached towards the window. Grandfather had brought the roses back from one of his voyages. Over tea, she’d elaborate, proud that the only care they needed was the same her grandmother had provided. Every evening she’d open the window over the kitchen sink and dump the soapy water over the roses. Aunt May appeared to be a quiet, retiring widow, who was the image of a demure older lady.
Aunt May’s house came complete with a selection of antimacassars in the rarely used parlor. I found out the hard way that one did not sit in the parlor without permission. My snafu happened on a hot day in summer. The Cap’n, my father-in-law, had detailed me to do the annual painting at May’s house. The house was a rambling wreck of a Victorian Fancy. It was large enough that we painted one side of the house each year in a rotation. That day I had just finished scraping and priming the north side. I was looking for a quiet, relaxed place to write some of my field notes. I may have been working at Spinney’s boatyard, crewing on the Capn’s ketch, and painting, but I was still an anthropologist attempting to do fieldwork. The notes really could not wait.
I had just finished annotating yesterdays’ notes when Aunt May came into the parlor and proceeded to rip me a new one in a seamanly fashion. Was this was the shy retiring aunt May? May who deferred to her brother’s every wish. I now realized that this was also the May who was the granddaughter, daughter, and sister to ships captains. The lady had a persuasive tongue in at least four languages. Being the son of a Merchant Marine Engineer and former Navy, I found myself in awe of her command of the lingua franca of the sea. The cleanest word to emerge from that sweet tongue was the word lackadaisical. She grabbed me by the ear, twisted, and dragged me forth from the sanctum.
Once in the kitchen, she effortlessly slipped back into the sweet old lady mode, asked me if I wanted iced tea, and sat me down with a plate of molasses cookies.
I never went near the parlor again, and I never underestimated aunt May.

5 Replies to “The Parlor”

  1. My Great Grandmother- we called her Nan, had a sitting parlor too. It was decked out in her best antique furniture, paintings and china figurines.
    The only way I could get into that room was to BE A LADY. I was five years old. Anyway when she came to visit us or we were at another family member’s house and I knew Nan was going to be there I was on my best manners and I WAS A LADY. She was not what you would call affectionate by nature and I was not what you would call a normal kid- anyway I always got to use the Parlor when I visited and after she past away a lot of the furniture in that room was left to me when she passed away. Those rooms were magical to some of us.

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