The Queen of May

When I was a little girl, I loved going to my Aunt Vickie’s. Her home and business were in the same building. My Uncle Gene always had a car lot and a garage but my Aunt had different businesses at different times. As a child, there was no place any more fun than their house.

The house itself was always a fascination to me. It was so different from our own. She had red velvet curtains and black leather furniture. She had big metal bulls with gold rings in their noses and matadors that were four feet tall with sweeping red capes that seemed to truly taunt the imitation bull. She had hanging bird cages with considerable winged imitation birds that I was sure was looking at me no matter where I was in the room. There was a large stereo with more velvet that lined the doors. There was always twangy country music coming from it.

Vickie was just as colorful as her home. She always had her hair piled high. She always wore a hair piece that was curled into sausage like ringlets. Wisps of hair curled and set just so around her face. She always wore false eye lashes, her eye make up matching every outfit. Her clothing was always so bright and colorful and I can remember her kicking her shoes off and dancing around the room to some old song that came on the radio. She wore rings on every finger and lusty over-sized earrings. She would get so tickled. She always seemed so uninhibited to me. She seemed so fearless.

I remember her having a restaurant, I was really little then. I don’t remember much about it other than the wonderful smells of home cooking. However, she then had a beauty shop. Mother was also a beautician and I went to work with her a lot. Here, though, I could really play. It was in the 1970’s and wigs were all the rage. There were a row of chairs that pumped up much higher than I was really allowed to pump them. There was a long mirror behind the chairs with an eclectic group of ephemera. Advertisements for hair products, Final Net, Toni Perms, Dipity Doo. Pictures of up-dos and beehives and of course, the famous Farrah hair. On a shelf above the mirror, I guess it may have more of a ledge, there were little white Styrofoam heads lined up. Some had little wiglets, some had hair pieces to make the tallest hives. Little brown or grey heads of hair, rolled up in pink and blue rollers, netted in little green hair nets, just waiting on their owners to come in so Aunt Vickie could fashion their hair in the latest trend.

On the counters, combs, brushes, clippies, bobby pins, things to tease hair, things to smooth hair, things to section and wave hair. The glass jar of blue liquid that cleaned the combs. The toaster oven thing that dried the hair brushes after they had been washed. The stacks and stacks of towels. A job I have loathed my whole life, folding all of those miniature towels. I would give anything to fold those towels today.

Oh! The magazines! Gossip magazines! Donny and Marie Osmond, Sonny and Cher, Starsky and Hutch, Shawn Cassidy, David Bowie. The actual TV Guide! Better Homes and Garden’s magazines filled with jello salad recipes. Cosmopolitan, which I was in no way allowed to read.

It was so much fun. Playing Beauty Shop. Answering the phone and making pretend appointments, working our customers appointments in the way we had heard the grown ups do.We would wash each other’s hair in the shampoo bowls, roll up strands of hair, using six clippies on each roller because we could never get the rollers to stay in place. We sat on the booster seats at the dryers, reading the magazines, having pretend conversations about all the drama we could think up. We played grown up. We played  Mom and Aunt Vickie.

There was a little store between the house and the businesses. It was where you paid for your gas or bought a snack or pop for the road. There was an adding machine, a cash register, phone, a bell that rang for someone to come to the register. There was a cabinet full of glass shelves that held truck-stop fare. Rolaids, tooth brushes, hair nets, pantyhose, candy, gum, matches, nail files, rain bonnets, chapstick, pens and pencils, little spiral tablets and assorted cigarettes. We would play store, taking turns being the cashier. We ate all the candy and gum we wanted and made terrible messes, Aunt Vickie didn’t care. She just wanted us to have fun.

When we got a little older, she had a camper set up at a camp site each summer. We would go and have cookouts and swim. We played games and rode bikes. We ran around in bare feet and swimsuits, begging money for the concession stand. We always had fireworks and flashlights. There was always tons of food and cans of Faygo. We piled into a small bed, dirty feet and wet heads, laughed until the wee hours of the mourning, then got up with the sun. She made sure we had everything we wanted. She ran around attending to all of us, kids and adults, making sure every need was met.

Eventually she put a pool in at her house and they built a pond. She was always all about having fun. Having the whole family over. Having all the kids over, their friends, the more the merrier. She would run around and yell at Uncle Gene to hurry up and get something done and laugh at everything.

I have talked a lot about the strength of the women in our family. She was no different. She lost her only son and then raised her grandson. She held everyone together as best she could for so many years. We would get together for a holiday and something horrible would be going on and she would sit at the table, playing rook and laughing until tears ran down her face at something one of us was telling her. She was a rock.

I had my first child when I was nineteen. She was there. She was always there. The only one she missed was my last one. Belle came to quickly for anyone to be there.

When Kennedy was born, she was almost seven weeks early. I was in the hospital in Anderson and they were taking us to Indianapolis because of their neonatal unit. Mother, Grandma and Aunt Vickie came. I was in labor for five days. They never left me. The first few days, the doctor’s were trying to stop my labor. They had so much medicine coursing through my veins, they also kept me fairly high on a new pain medication that had just come out. Nubane. Good gravy. I’ve never been happier in my life. I had a constant grin on my face. That shit was awesome. It also made me HOT!! It was February. In Indiana. It was probably two degrees outside. I was lying in my hospital bed, in my gown, no covers. I had the air conditioning on in the room and a fan the size of an airplane rotor at the end of my bed. Still, I was hot. My family of women sat in a row on the couch in the room, in their winter coats, covered up with blankets, and never left me. They kept me entertained the whole time. Vickie had become a nurse by this time. I was freaked out a bit, to say the least. Happy…but freaked none the less. Every time they wanted to do something to me, I’d look at her and raise my eyebrows. This was secret code for, ‘What the hell does that mean??’. Eventually, thing started to decline and they decided to go ahead and let me have Kennedy. They were going to put an interior heart monitor on her head and they explained that I wouldn’t be able to tolerate it without an epidural. I was scared to death. I asked if my Aunt could stay. I sat up on the edge of the bed and leaned over the bedside table. Aunt Vicki was on one side of me, shivering, and the anesthesiologist on the other. He explained step by step each part of the procedure as he did it and Vickie would dumb it down for me. Tana used to call this ‘Tana’s terms’. My Aunt would start explaining something medical and Tana would say “Tana’s terms please”. She got me through it and she had everyone in the room laughing. Because that’s what we do. We get through it and we do it with humor and tears.

My Aunt Vickie died yesterday. I can hardly stand it. She has always been my go to person when I needed something medical explained. She has always been my second opinion. She is where we have Thanksgiving and Easter. She is truthful to the point of ass sometimes. She was part of a group of women who raised me to be who I am today. She also raised tw o young women who I love so dearly,

Vickie Ebbert Christie was ornery, witty, tenacious, unshakable, unwavering, veracious and my favorite Aunt. I will miss everything about her. She is in Heaven today, most likely dancing with my Uncle Gene and she is so happy to see Shad. She never stopped missing him, I don’t think it ever even lessened. She is with them now. She is with my Grandparents. My Grandma and Grandpa were so glad to see her, I have no doubt. And I’ll bet you a dollar, she went and found Elvis as soon as she said hello to the family. If you knew her, you were so lucky. If you didn’t, I hope you got a little taste of her here. She was a bright light that never dimmed. Rest in peace, Aunt Vickie. I love you.

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