Mary Pitt: Tea With Aunt Tildie
Tea With Aunt Tildie
by Mary Pitt
I found a bit of extra time on my hands and decided to pay a visit to my Aunt Tildie, stopping at the bakery for the frosted sugar cookies which she dearly loved to have with her tea. Tildie is Mama's youngest sister and my last living connection with my forebears as well as delightful company and I try to visit her at least once a month. Aunt Tildie, though nearing a century in age is as young as springtime and her very existence is an inspiration for the meaningful purpose that keeps me going through my own advancing years.
After tea we chatted about the news. Now, Aunt Tildie may be old but she zealously guards against being "ignorant" by subscribing to newspapers from big cities. The "news" is always a couple of days old by the time she has the papers delivered by mail but, when reminded of the fact, she sniffs and says, "Well, it's news to me!" She assiduously keeps up with the political and international news and is outspoken in her opinion.
Today I asked, "What news do you have from your family?" An innocuous question, I thought, and not one to upset her. Wrong again!
"I heard from Robert", she said of her great-grandson. "The little sumbitch just graduated high school and says he wants to join the service! I told him he's a damned idiot and he would be better off if he would enrol in divinity school. Them preachers don't never get shot at, though some should. They got nothin' to do but raise hell with the gummint and stick their noses in where they don't belong!"
"Who are you talking about?", I queried, "Do you mean the evangelical right, the fundamentalists?"
"Fundamentalists, my ass", she exploded, "Folks can't say what they mean any more, can they? They ain't nothin' but plain old-fashioned holy-rollers! I tell you, if the people ever had to live the way they preach, they'd run 'em off!"
"Aunt Tildie!", I exclaimed, "I never thought of you as being anti-religion!"
"I ain't anti-nothin! The Good Lord has seen fit to keep me alive and in good shape for, lo, these many years, and I thank him from my knees evry mornin'! I just hate what some damfools try to do in His Name. These guys are something, that's for sure, but Christian they ain't!"
"Well, I guess you just never mentioned that you didn't like the fundamentalists."
"I never mentioned no damned "fundamentalists" because I ain't never knowed any. But I know a holy-roller when I see one. They used to come to this town, a pot-bellied preacher in fancy clothes with a couple of pretty girls and a bunch of young no-goods to work the crowd and pass the milk buckets."
"Yes, ma'am. Milk buckets. They'd pass around them ten-quart milk buckets at the camp meetin's they had out in the clearin' by the crick. They was for the "collection" and folks was expected to fill the milk buckets or the preacher would just keep bellerin' at 'em till they did. By the end of their ree-vival folks wouldn't have nothin' left so they would leave town and go on to where somebody had somethin' to give. One time, the last night of ree-vival, your grandma tossed her false teeth in that bucket. She didn't have nothin' else left that she could get along without and they weren't no good nohow since she couldn't chew nothin' with 'em."
Aunt Tildie had to pause for breath as the old house rang with her mirthful cackle. Then she continued, "Ever' time they come to town there was a shortage of young girls around here for a spell. Some would shine up to that old preacher and he would take them with him for a while and the rest would leave shortly after to have their babies from them young bucks that passed the buckets. They'd git so farred up a-listenin' to all that preachin' about sin, they decided they would see what was so attractin' about it and them young fellers was always ready and willin' to teach 'em.
"Now they're all bunched up in them fancy churches and speilin' on the radio and the tee-vee and folks are a-sendin' them money from all over! They're even too damned lazy to travel to folks. They jist fill them milk buckets by long distance. At least their girls are safe! And all that talk about abortion, paradin' through town and showin' off, tryin' to close up the hospitals and threatenin' to kill the doctors! They'll keep it up till them folks have to hide the way they used to. Hell, ever'body knew where there was an old woman with a button hook or a doctor who would answer his back door after dark, and they will be there when all the hubbub is done, even if it is against the law. Some things is worse than death and, when that happens, a girl is gonna do what she has to do."
"My goodness, Aunt Tildie", I commented, "A visit to you is like a walk through a history book!"
"Well, I've lived a lot of history and I remember most of it. I recall the Kaiser and I remember Hitler and Moosalini and Stalin and all them fools that thought they would run the world, but they ain't in it with the bunch that's runnin' this country today. They ain't gonna stop tryin' to take over the world until someone kicks their asses or ever' last American boy is dead. And them stupid holy-rollers is helpin' them! Ole Boosh gives 'em a little kiss on the butt now and then and they think he's on their side, so they keep on a-givin' him their votes. Wait'll he takes over as dictator and then see how much "love" they get! None of 'em will have any money left after taxes to give to the preachers and there will be a real war right here!"
Another pause for breathing and cackling gives me an opportunity to interject, "Aunt Tildie, you must be tired. I think I'll just run along and let you rest."
"Rest? I'll be a-restin' a long time real soon. If I was younger, I would be gettin' out the old shutgun and gettin' ready for the fight."
"Fight, Aunt Tildie? What fight?
"The Second American Revolution, that's what fight! If folks don't wake up before this bunch cancels the Constitution and puts us under martial law, that's what it's a-comin to and I sorta wish I was young enough to enjoy it instead of jist hopin' to live long enough to see it. We're gonna have to rebuild our democracy just like great-great-gran'pappy and them did!"
When I finally was free to drive away, a prayer formed on my lips that she would be wrong, but Aunt Tildie is, if nothing else, always a sensible and knowledgable woman.
Mary Pitt is a septuagenarian Kansan who is self-employed and active in the political arena. Her concerns are her four-generation family and the continuance of the United States as a democracy with a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people". Comments and criticism may be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org .