Aunt Charlotte was my father’s older sister. She was much older than Daddy and had the habit of annoying him greatly. She was born in our house, which belonged to my grandparents back then, and considered the room in which she was born to be Her Room.
Aunt Charlotte came into this world in the TV room. Only, it wasn’t a TV room then. At the time of her birth, the TV room was the front bedroom. Several of my aunts and uncles were born in that room, but Aunt Charlotte was the only one who insisted on sleeping in that room when she came to visit.
My parents had long since moved all the bedrooms upstairs, and the back bedroom had gotten divided up between a laundry room and the kitchen. The front bedroom became the library and later the TV room. But, when Aunt Charlotte came, the TV must be moved to the living room so Aunt Charlotte could have her room.
I was about four when Aunt Charlotte called on the phone long-distance to say she wanted to visit and her plane would arrive early on Saturday morning. A long-distance call was an event in those days. We all gathered around to listen to Daddy’s side of the brief conversation. The phone company charged twenty-five cents a minute, which was a lot of money, even for Aunt Charlotte, so it was important to keep the call short.
On Friday evening, Mom cleared the magazines off the top of her cedar chest in the living room while Daddy went next door to get the neighbor to help him move the TV. Our TV wasn’t a console in a huge case that sat on the floor. We owned a portable, which sat on a small steel frame. It could also sit on the cedar chest in the living room, which was very convenient.
The neighbor arrived to help “portable” the heavy thirteen-inch TV to the living room. Daddy explained that he could lift the thing, but the heavy tube in the back made it impossible to balance. We all stood nearby in hushed reverence for the moving of the TV. Daddy and Mr. Goodman huffed and puffed a bit as Daddy walked backward holding onto the screen end and Mr. Goodman followed with the tube end.
All went well until they reached the front hall. Mr. Goodman caught his toe on the edge of the rug in front of the front door and pitched forward. The rug being dislodged slid too. Daddy swore something fierce as his feet came out from under him, and he fell on his back. The TV landed on top of Daddy, while Mr. Goodman heroically pitched himself to his side to avoid landing on top of Daddy and the TV.
When they all unsorted themselves from the floor, Daddy discovered that he couldn’t lift his arm. In fact, he turned rather white and declared he must lie down before he vomited. Mom and my oldest brother, Devon stepped up to the challenge and lifted the front end of the TV with Mr. Goodman heroically at the back by himself. Daddy moaned and swore a great deal while the TV slowly sailed to its safe harbor on the cedar chest.
Mr. Goodman left when Mom started poking Daddy and asking, “Does it hurt here?” He declared that it hurt everywhere. Finally, he let out a loud bellow and Mom exclaimed triumphantly. “Your collar bone must be broken or displaced. I’ll drive you to the emergency room. You kids, finish setting up the bed for Aunt Charlotte. Devon, you’re in charge.”
I hid under the kitchen table while Devon commanded my sisters to fetch and carry bits and pieces for the bed. When the phone rang, I could hear Devon swearing and Caroline threatening to tell mom and Marissa yelling at Caroline to bring the sheets. I knew they couldn’t hear the phone. I crawled out from under the table and stood staring up at the phone on the wall. On the third ring, I pulled a chair up to the thing. On the fourth ring I reconsidered what I was about to do as I climbed up on the chair. On the fifth ring, I answered, “Hello?”
“Who is this?”
“Go get your father or mother and tell them Aunt Charlotte is on the phone. And hurry this is costing me money.”
“They’re not here.”
“Where did they go?”
I knew I wasn’t supposed to take up time on a long-distant call so I replied, “Out.”
“Call Devon to the phone.”
I could hear him yelling about the mattress pinning his arm to the wall so I simply replied, “Can’t.”
“Can Caroline or Marissa come to the phone?”
“Can you give your parents a message?”
“Tell them I’m not coming up tomorrow after all.”
“What are you suppose to say?”
“Aunt Charlotte is not coming up tomorrow after all.”
I heard a click and static so I assumed Aunt Charlotte had hung up. Feeling very important I went to the bottom of the stairs and called up to my siblings who had gotten the mattress around the corner on the landing and were making swift progress toward me. “Aunt Charlotte is not coming up tomorrow after all.” I shouted.
“Rosie, get out of the way, now!”
I knew better than to disobey Devon so I ran and hid under the dining table again. I waited until the noises had died down then crept out to find my siblings. They were in the TV room putting the blankets on the bed. I announced again, “Aunt Charlotte is not coming up tomorrow after all.”
“Rosie, you go to bed right now, and if I catch you out of bed, I’ll give you a whippin.”
I scrambled to my bed as fast as I could go, but I didn’t fall asleep. I lay in bed and waited for sounds of my parents returning. Finally, I heard a car door slam. When I heard the front door closing, I silently snuck out of bed and crawled to the stairs and slid down. I found Mom, and Daddy with his arm in a sling, surveying Aunt Charlotte’s room.
Again, I felt very important as I announced in firm tones, “Aunt Charlotte is not coming up tomorrow after all.”
“Rosie, what are you doing out of bed? You get right back to bed, now.”
I went back to bed and slept until I heard Mom preparing to go to the airport to fetch Aunt Charlotte. I jumped up and ran down the stairs. “Aunt Charlotte is not coming up tomorrow after all.” I shouted at the top of my lungs.
“Rosie, don’t shout. Go get dressed. Obey your father. I’ll be back in two hours.”
“Aunt Charlotte is not coming up tomorrow after all.”
Mom left to go to the airport.