Friday, October 19, 2007

A Pink Story, Since it is October

Lately, I’ve been trying to come up with a new nickname for myself and I realized I’d totally forgotten that I already had one from Aunt Janey, my Mommom Jewel’s younger sister. I’ve talked a lot about all my crazy relatives, but I’ve never mentioned my wacky great aunt who lives on an elk ranch and has traveled the world wearing pink.

Aunt Janey nicknamed me “Pinky” when I was about three. She had a name for everyone in our family. In fact, my cousins and I later realized, that none of us had ever once heard Aunt Janey call anyone by his or her proper name. We wondered if she actually knew our real names. She called Cousin, Tink and Mommom “Dule” because apparently as a child she couldn’t say Jewel and it came out as “Dule” and somehow stuck, though at times we joke that it’s actually spelled “Duel” because Mommom Jewel is the contrariest human being you would ever want to meet sometimes. But anyhow, Aunt Janey called me Pinky and I still consider it a huge honor because pink is her favorite color.

Pink defined Aunt Janey. She wore pink short-shorts, had pink sunglasses, a pink bedspread, planted pink peonies and even drank Tab because it came in a pink can. She loved the flair, femininity and intimacy of pink. At one point she started selling Mary Kay because she heard that if you sold enough you could even get a pink Cadillac. My grandfather liked to call that particular shade “titty pink” by the way. Aunt Janey always talked about one day even having a pink house, but no one in Millpond had never, and would never, ever have a pink house. Millpond just wasn’t a pink house kind of town. Once I heard a rumor that back in the 20s a bootlegger in town built a gigantic garish replica of a Spanish villa and painted it pink and that someone set fire to it and the whole thing burnt to the ground, but I’ve never been able to substantiate the story as anything more than a Millpond tall tale, so I’m sticking to my statement that Millpond has never had a pink house.

“I oughta go to Bermuda.” Aunt Janey said.

No one in Millpond had ever gone to Bermuda. In fact, most of them hadn’t even gone to the next county, and they all thought Aunt Janey with her loud pink short shorts was out of her ever-lovin mind.

“That Janey needs to settle down and wipe that hot pink lipstick off her mouth,” they said. You don’t think for a second that she listened, do you?

Aunt Janey played poker. She went to the dances at the fire house and drank pink champale. She had two kids by the time she was nineteen, got divorced when she was thirty and moved in with her mother, who had long since given up trying to tell her daughter (the youngest of twelve) anything.

Aunt Janey was my favorite because she was fun and since kids are famous for not having any taste whatsoever, I thought her outfits were the most beautiful, glamorous things I’d ever seen. When I grew up I wanted to wear all pink outfits too, but I am pleased to report to you that I can’t recall actually having done this thank God, although I do have not one, but two, pairs of pink shoes.

One day Aunt Janey just picked up and moved to Italy. You would have thought she went to the moon. All of Millpond went into a fit over the news that Janey Lynn’d run off and got married to some guy in the Navy (who was 15 years her junior, God forbid) just so she could live in Italy, except they called it IT-ly.

Aunt Janey wrote letters and sent them in pink air mail envelopes. She sent mine addressed to “Pinky” and told me of all the wonderful sights, smells, tastes and sounds she experienced. Aunt Janey lived in a rose colored apartment building where vines climbed the walls and a fountain splashed in the courtyard. She ate cappellini in pink sauce, sipped rose wine and danced under blush colored sunsets in a place where it seemed all the women wore big sunglasses, bright lipstick and platform shoes. She told me about a little girl who lived in her apartment building and played in the courtyard and how she just couldn’t get over how much the little Italian gir; looked like me. She also wrote to me about seeing the Pope on Christmas Eve, eating wagon wheel shaped pasta, how Italians eat ice cream for breakfast and then she told me all about the vineyards in Tuscany and about a perfume factory she toured.

“Pinky, you wouldn’t believe this place!” Aunt Janey wrote, “One day you’ve got to leave Millpond and see the world.” (Aunt Janey is now very happy that I have done exactly that.)

Aunt Janey came back a few years later and up and got another divorce. Things didn’t work out with the Navy Officer. Turned out he was a drunk and had been hitting her. Aunt Janey lost her dogs, the dream house she was building and all the beautiful things she bought in Italy because her abusive ex-husband either took them or destroyed them. He was horrible and Aunt Janey had the wherewithal to give up everything she had just to get away from him, and last we heard he had married a teenaged mail order bride from the Philippines.

“Don’t you worry about me,” Aunt Janey told everyone, “I can get new stuff. I’ve started all over before and I can do it again.”

She went to work at the Buttered Biscuit Café and moved back in with Mommom Jewel and Pop Byron. She was close to sixty. At the café she charmed a farmer who came in a lot into teaching her to drive a tractor so she could help him plow his bean fields. I have no idea what in God’s name would possess her to ever want to run a tractor and plow a bean field, but she said she thought it would be fun and she wanted to do it, so By God she was gonna do it. People asked what on earth Janey Lynn would do next. I must confess that by this point in the story that I was old enough to be one of those very people. The farmer joked that he’d have to paint the tractor pink to suit her. I kind of thought he might really do it, but he never got around to it.

The best thing is that if it weren’t for her pink sunglasses Aunt Janey might never have been reunited with the long lost love of her life.

Darrel Brown left Millpond in his 20s to become a cowboy in Colorado and he came back a couple times a year to see his Mama, and as he drove west on Greenbranch/ Millpond Highway past the endless miles of soybean fields, he could have sworn he saw a woman driving a tractor and that she was not just driving a tractor, but also wearing pink sunglasses and drinking a Tab. He thought he was losing his mind but then he remembered that in all of Millpond there was just one woman who’d dare wear pink sunglasses and she was exactly the kind of woman who would drive a tractor while wearing them and drinking a Tab. He pulled over and tried to get her attention. She ignored him. I mean, you can’t exactly blame the poor woman. She was trying to get the bean field plowed and all and here comes some stranger in a cowboy hat jumping up and down on the side of the road. Aunt Janey was pretty used to men in cowboy hats jumping up and down over her, so she tried to ignore him and hoped he’d go away, which he eventually did.

But Darrel couldn’t get Aunt Janey out of his mind and he asked around until he found out that she worked nights at the Buttered Biscuit, which meant that he was in luck because he was planning on going there anyway. It is after all, one of only three restaurants in the vicinity; although Millpondians would have my hide if I didn’t let you all know that there are in fact, now six, possibly seven restaurants in town now. So Darrel went in for his slice of pie and when he saw Aunt Janey he thought she was just as lively and magnetic as she’d been when she sat beside his hospital bed as a bereaved thirteen year old, with a bittersweet crush. She thought he looked a lot better as a 67 year old cowboy than he did when he was nineteen and wrapped in bandages, and cut him a wide slice of banana cream. Because you see, Darrell and Aunt Janey knew each other a long, long time ago.

Janey’s older brother Wallace drove like a maniac and wouldn’t listen to anyone, not even his best friend Darrel. They’d been out drinking one night and Darrel told him he shouldn’t drive, which resulted in a fight. To settle the fight, Darrel said he’d ride with him, but he’d had a few too many himself and passed out in the passenger seat. They hit a tree on one of those dark, winding country roads, killing Wallace instantly and Darrel woke up weeks later in the hospital with Wallace’s baby sister at his side. The first color he saw was the pink of her blouse and she visited every day for three months. She imagined that they would get married and have sixteen children and the thought of this helped her feel better about the death of her older brother. When Darrell got out he broke her heart, telling her he was too old for her and he didn’t ever want to get married anyway. Now, forty something years later and never married, Darrel wondered what he had been thinking. He had missed out on all those years that he could have been having fun with this extraordinary woman in her pink lipstick and hot pants and platform shoes.

He extended his visit, saying the cows back in Colorado could wait, and he began to court Aunt Janey. They went out every night and before the month was over Darrel bought her a pink sapphire engagement ring. Aunt Janey said she was pleased to see that after 40 something years, Darrel Brown’d gotten some sense. On account of that she married him and moved to Colorado. Now they live in a trailer (it’s not pink) on an elk farm in the middle of nowhere, miles from civilization and have no running water or electricity. They have to run a generator, but you know, they love it. Naturally, I wouldn’t love it at all. I had enough of that life when we had the hurricane two years ago, but Aunt Janey sees it as another one of her adventures. She also wears sweatshirts with airbrushed pictures of howling wolves in front of glowing moons and apparitions of Native American shamans. You know the type I’m talking about. I’ll bet your trying to figure out exactly where you can order one right this second aren’t you?

When I was going through my horrible breakup and wanting to throw myself into the sea Aunt Janey got pissed at how pathetic I was acting and gave me a lecture, which is in many ways extremely, unashamedly trite, but dammit, sometimes the way the realest people actually talk is trite, and just because you’ve heard it a million times already doesn’t mean that one more time’s necessarily going to kill you. In fact, you may at this very moment be needing to hear something again that you already know, just like I did when Aunt Janey said this to me:

“Always do exactly what you want to do and don’t worry about what anybody else says. You be brave in life and don’t let people stop you from doing things just because they want to bully you and boss you and try to make a fool out of you to make themselves feel big. You want to drive a tractor, you go on ahead and drive a tractor, and make sure you live your life with a little flair in the process and you tell everyone else to kiss your ass Pinky. And let me tell you something, there’s a shade of pink to suit everyone. You just have to find yours and when you do, ain’t nobody, not some fiancé, not some boss at work, some trampy girl that stole your man, and not nobody else on this planet is gonna be able to get in your way.”

Naturally, I listened to her. Not about the tractor part though. And if you’re wondering, my very own shade of pink is definitely “titty.” I mean, how could it be anything else?


Vic said...

I "saw" all of that. You are truly gifted. Thanks again for sharing.

MP said... have some WISE people in your family. I LIKE HER !!

Anonymous said...

I would love to have that quote on the walls of my office and my bedroom and in my car and anywhere else I could put it. Everyone should have an Aunt Janey

Subservient No More said...

Well print it out and hang it up!!

Sparkling Cipher said...

Between the ages of 10 and 21, I thought pink was too girly for someone as serious as me. Now, at 28, I think it's perfectly fun and pretty. I own three pairs of pink flip flops - one decorated with glitter, one with dangling sequins and one with beaded butterflies on the toe. I love them. Everybody can use some flair now and then to make themselves feel good.

NicoleinAZ said...

I'm more of a mauve myself, a little red and a little pink all mixed into one. Keeps things spicy!

I want to visit Aunt Janey now.

Stephanie said...

I would love to be like your aunt. Only in purple, not pink. I've never really liked pink, I think it comes from years of my mother trying to get me to be more feminine, and me stubbornly refusing.

I love your writing, I found your blog just yesterday, and read everything that I can see... but surely blogspot doesn't delete posts older than six months old, do they? I can't figure out a way to read anything before May, which is kind of ironic, as the first thing I can read is your posts about quitting. Is there any way to see the older stuff, or is it forever gone?

Subservient No More said...

Gone forever though I may periodically repost some of it. I didn't quit, I just reinvented, so stick around because there are many more stories to come.

Leonesse said...

Stephanie, you missed out on some good stuff. REEEAAALLLLLLYYY good stuff.

Oh, SNM, we really need to meet for a drink. Mine was my Great Aunt Jinner. Let me tell you, her stories are amazing... People had sex as much as they do now, but it was hidden, etc. Toot your own horn. Go for it.

Every time I read To Kill a Mockingbird I think of my Aunt Jinner. She is the epitome of Scout Finch.

Anonymous said...

OK, I take back my earlier comments about you having to write a heck with that; you start writing a screenplay for movies or a TV series pilot RIGHT NOW!!

I can even cast it for about Kathy Bates as your mother? Terry Bradshaw as your stepfather? And Carol Burnett has got to be pink-obsessed Aunt Janey, without a doubt.
I'll leave you to figure out who will play you...but Christina Ricci seems to have a lot of time on her hands, now! And Lindsey Lohan could still pull it off as a teenage you...and she apparently needs the work now, too.

Conundrum said...

Another of your wonderful stories. You are such a gifted writer and we are blessed to have the opportunity and privilige of reading them.

Somehow I've missed hearing about the Buttered Biscuit Café.

What a delicious name you've so many others.


Subservient No More said...

Ok here's the casting -

Young parents - Drew Barrymore and Adrian Grenier. They're so perfect that we'd just have to age them with makeup for the later scenes.

Me - Christina Ricci would definitely work. I look more like Katherine Heigl, but she'd have to dye her hair back brown. I also look a lot like Winona Ryder and we are close in age. She hasn't worked in a while...

Secretmom said...

LOVE this!

Anonymous said...

This is my favorite story since "the salt shaker man".

I'm a 51 y/o woman who somewhere along the line became an Aunt Janey. It does feel good to just be yourself; eccentricity is highly under rated.

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