They say those boys were heart breakers and I would imagine we could call that a fact. There were four brothers to the three sisters and the Mama, who ended up being called Mamaw, was rumored to be an angel of sorts. I have no way to prove this. It did not go down in the history books. All that is left are fading photos and stories from people I trust. Until Sunday when I realize I am looking into her eyes.
I think sometimes angels may come to populate the small towns of earth.
He is one of the two brothers left, the one who used to sit in front of us at church. Uncle John Roy, I say. It's Shea.
Shea, he smiles big and I realize how long it has been, how good it is just to see his face. He is the cutest thing with the roundest belly under a white tank tee with a pair of plaid pajama pants completing his ensemble. Walking more slowly than I remember he finally makes it to where I am and unlocks the door of the screened in front porch.
Shea. What are you doing here, girl?
I heard you got married, Uncle John Roy. I just came by to say congratulations and tell you how happy I am for you and Aunt Maxine. Then I hug him and realize how selfish I really am 'cause the hug is more of a squeeze and maybe I just needed to see his face, look into those big brown reminds me of all the good which came before me eyes.
He squeezes back, Well come on in. Your Aunt Maxine is in there hiding somewhere.
You know and I did too that no proper visiting can be done without some previous notification. I had not called, had not even planned on stopping by. For Uncle John Roy that wouldn't be a problem but I wasn't sure about Aunt Maxine. Still I stop 'cause I feel the need and she's either happy to see me or blocking my view with all the hugs and all the apologies about how she's just so embarrassed that the place is such a mess.
I love you too and hush, Aunt Maxine. The place is gorgeous and I don't even care, how people choose to decorate their caves is of no consequence to me. I just came by to say congratulations. 'Bout time you two tied the knot.
Uncle John Roy sits in his recliner. Aunt Maxine fusses over finding someplace for me to have a seat while I am taking the stool at her feet. Just sit down next to me, Aunt Maxine, I look into her face. Oh my gosh, Aunt Maxine, you hadn't aged a day. You need to be doing commercials for Avon. Are you? I'm serious. She's eighty something and looks absolutely no different than the days when I was a kid and she would come to our house every month with the Avon.
She laughs, Oh Shea, you're so sweet.
You know how she does it? Uncle John Roy pipes in from where he is sitting, a big grin on his face. I melt in his eyes. They dance constantly as if life is nothing but fun and we're all here just to love.
Oh John Roy, don't you start, she warns him.
How does she do it, Uncle John Roy? I ask.
Preparation H, he laughs. She puts that stuff on her face.
I almost think he's joking before Maxine says, For forty-five years and that's a fact. You shoulda heard him tell all those people up in Tennessee at Huck Finn's Catfish House. They wanted to check my ID for the senior discount so he told those people with that place packed out that I used Preparation H. I was so embarrassed, couldn't believe he'd say something like that, she giggles.
She goes on to tell me how the girl at the flower shop wanted her secret so she told her and went back a few weeks later to only have that girl say she had tried it for three days but found that stuff stunk. She couldn't take the smell. Aunt Maxine told her, You just have to get used to that.
Today I am grateful for family, for arms always welcoming, for those brothers, that mother and how a simple visit can feel so redeeming.