Aunt Barbara was a beauty queen. Competing
in the Miss America Pageant and riding on top of floats
in holiday parades in South Paris Maine did nothing
to prepare her for being a wife. When she was first married
to Uncle Buddy she knew how to boil water and cook spaghetti,
but the sauce was simply too much for her. So, she mixed catsup
into a little hot water left at the bottom of the pot,
poured it over the pasta, tossed in a lot of Kraft Parmesan Cheese
and served it almost every night. Uncle Buddy ate bowlfuls
of the stuff for months and told her it was delicious.
When my grandfather told me this story, he said
it's the kind of thing that happens when you really fall in love.
It was a summer evening. He was sitting in the Adirondack
chair behind the driveway in front of the railroad tracks
that ran through the yard behind my grandparent's house.
He smoked his pipe and talked while I pulled rhubarb from the garden.
We were waiting for Uncle Buddy and Aunt Barbara
to come in for the weekend, with my teenage cousins
who had long straight black hair and jeans so tight they had to lie down
on the bed to zip them up. On Saturday night, they played 45s
out in the shed and danced with the local boys.
And if we hadn't bothered them too much during the day,
they would let me and my cousins watch them through the window
and dance to Elvis and the Beatles out on the grass;
my grandparents sitting back in their chairs watching us,
tapping their feet and clapping until the train roared through town.