A Question Only My Aunt Could Answer

A Question Only My Aunt Could Answer

Mom’s Sister, Aunt Pearl

This week’s inspiration come a rare visit with my mother’s sister, Aunt Pearl.

Mom had an unusual habit. She loved chewing gum, but would always tear it into two pieces, only chewing half of a stick at a time.

Oddly, chewing gum had a prominent place in our otherwise traditionally appointed homes. As a pastor’s wife, Mom strived for a welcoming foyer. She cherished a special washstand Dad discovered in a flea market jaunt that he’d had refinished when we resided in one of his North Carolina pastorates. It became a fixture in our foyers, hosting Mom’s gum in a silver-plated bowl perched beside a leather bound guest book. Both rested under the shade of a pineapple adorned Tole lamp and a complementary silk flower arrangement.

My sister Rachel and I understood the set-up, the storied washstand, the pineapple, the leather bound guestbook, and even the yummy treat in a silver bowl. But we never understood—and amazingly never asked her while she was still alive—why she tore them in half?

A couple of weekends ago, we had the chance to find out. My brave son-in-law, my daughter, and their ten-month-old (my grandbaby Blakely Faye) survived a ten-and-a-half hour drive (that was supposed to be seven-and-a-half) to take me to a family wedding that Aunt Pearl would be attending as the grandmother of the bride. Rachel and her family met us there.

Aunt Pearl and bride-to-be granddaughter, Allison.

Aunt Pearl and bride-to-be granddaughter, Allison.

Aunt Pearl. Everyone should have an Aunt Pearl.

Aunt Pearl, Grandmother of the Bride.She is just as you might imagine, a refined woman of the South. Big hair, big eyes, big personality—and an even bigger heart. They call her, “Miss Hollywood” in her new assisted living home, as they should; she practically invented statement necklaces. And bracelets. And rings.

The day after the wedding festivities, I parked my wheelchair beside her and we chatted in the hotel lobby. Cousins I’d never met exchanged stories as I tried to put faces with the names she’d mentioned to me so often in our big conversations. She was a talker, a writer’s dream. In our regular phone calls, often an hour long, she could recall details equal to if not greater than the ones of my mother’s small paint brush fame.

Her bejeweled fingers opened her stylish gold purseThen it was time for Aunt Pearl to powder her nose. Her bejeweled fingers opened her stylish gold purse to pull out her compact and lipstick—Orange Flip by Revlon, her favorite, she told me. She dabbed and blotted, then tucked both back in their respective pouches. She paused and then dug in once more, searching for something at the bottom of the tiny purse. She pulled out her hand and opened it.

And there it was: a half-stick of gum.

I shot Rachel a look across the room. “It’s a half stick of gum, Sissy! Dentyne!” I mouthed an animated whisper above the conversations. Mom’s half-stick of Juicy Fruit was at least larger in size. I’m not sure how Aunt Pearl even found that tiny smidgen in the depths of her handbag.

“Ask her, Becky. Ask her,” Rachel prodded.

“So Aunt Pearl,” I said as I watched her manicured fingers peel the small wrapping off the gum, “why do you tear your gum in half? Mom did the exact same thing.”

Rachel and I had often wondered if it was a result of their upbringing, the time they spent in an orphanage after their father died. I braced myself for a big story, filled with details and drama.

“Well,” she said, showing me the little stub of gum, “it’s enough.”

I smiled and shook my head. “It’s enough.” What a great perspective. The one who loves bling and sparkles and the largeness of life still knows when something is enough.

The next day, during my morning quiet time, I came across this quote from the ancient Greek playwright, Euripides:

Enough is abundance to the wise.

My love and respect for Aunt Pearl and Mom grew a little richer and a little deeper that day. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to live in an orphanage. I guess they learned and never forgot what was enough.

And for myself, when I think life has gotten a little tough or I’m falling short of my goals, I’m going to remember that half-stick of gum. Maybe what I have is enough.

How about you? Do you have a special relative who has shared their wise words? Tell me about it. I’d love to know.

My best—always,

Becky  (Nana B)

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