I don't remember exactly when our family officially adopted her, but Aunt Gladys has been around forever and is crazy enough to go toe-to-toe with any of my blood relatives, so she fits right in.
Decades ago, Mom discovered Gladys standing by a rusty, old Rambler parked at a two-headed meter (that took only quarters) with a penny in her hand. Even then, she seemed ancient.
Standing in the street, she looked to be about 4-foot-6 in her lace-up orthopedic shoes, which made those Minnie Mouse legs look even more toothpicky. Her eyes and hair were equally blue. Mistaking Gladys for confused and helpless, Mom started to put her own quarter in the slot for the Rambler.
“Oh, not that one, dear,” Gladys interrupted, turning toward the other car sharing the meter.
“That one!” Her bony, little finger was pointing to a bright metallic Porsche Roadster convertible.
Before Mom could take her quarter back, Gladys pushed the coin into the slot and quickly returned the penny to her change purse, which contained quite a few quarters.
Scammed by a prehistoric hustler who drives a stick! You had to love her. So we kept her.
Gladys still chauffeurs herself everywhere. Her coordination is extraordinary, probably from practicing the bongos every day. But she can get creative with technicalities, like where she’s going.
When she went to pick up her friend at the airport in Raleigh, we got a frantic call on Monday night. “Irene has been kidnapped! She’s gone,” Aunt Gladys moaned. “I called 9-1-1, and the cops are on their way.”
Well, the good news is that Irene was fine. She wasn’t at the airport because her flight didn’t leave until Wednesday. And its destination was Charlotte.
Since then, we’ve been trying to keep Aunt Gladys busy a little closer to home. She’s got a nice, big yard, so we gave her a book on gardening, which she seemed to enjoy.
A few days later, Mom returned with her first crop report. Aunt Gladys was running around in coveralls planting lettuce. In her living room.
We’re not talking about some harmless little blackthumb-proof AeroGarden here. Oh, no. Aunt Gladys went out and sprang for the most decadent professional hydroponic growing system she could find. Easily 7 feet tall, the monster was sitting where her sectional used to be. It had dozens of bright, migraine-inducing lights and enough tubes to raise Frankenstein from the mulch. If you wanted to watch TV, you’d have to straddle the filtration system, which had displaced both recliners. “I’ll keep you girls up to your eyeballs in arugula,” Aunt Gladys promised merrily.
Mom was horrified. Gladys was thrilled—almost as thrilled as the hydroponic company where she must have dropped thousands.
Within six months, the system had yielded approximately three leaves of overpriced produce—not quite enough salad for a flea. The only thing that experienced substantial growth was her water bill.
“What are you going to do now?” we asked our unfazed aunt, who was playing a bongo solo to the lettuce.
Of course, Aunt Gladys had everything under control. She’d already lined up a buyer while she was out shagging.
“No worries. I met a guy who’ll take it for twice what I paid,” she said.
We were about to do the happy dance when Aunt Gladys shared her plan to deliver it personally. To Raleigh.
We just have to talk her out of taking the Porsche.
Jan A. Igoe is a writer who and non-gardener from the beach who patronizes the produce section of her supermarket, where you can buy hydroponic lettuce for less than $350 a leaf. Write her at HumorMe@SCLiving.coop.