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Better Late Than Ever

December 28, 2012

Mid February. And there it was, sitting on the kitchen table…right on schedule. Aunt Ann’s schedule. She was one of those people who marched to her own beat, and her drummer wasn’t in the same band as ours.

But it arrived…it was right there on the table just waiting for us to tear into it. A big box filled with gifts for the three of us.

Over the weekend, we’d been busy writing out our Valentines for every kid in our classes. That’s when Aunt Ann must have brought the box to her local post office.

We’d look forward to it every year…right around Valentine’s Day. About the time we were thinking about the big party at school.

In art class, we’d been busy making pink, red and white hearts for the bulletin board and decorating big construction paper pouches that we taped to our desks to hold the valentines from our classmates. We’d made silhouettes of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln for the bulletin board too, in honor of Presidents’ Day, but we liked Valentine’s Day better…candy was involved with that one…and we liked candy. There’d be cookies and Kool-Aid in the afternoon, too.

All us girls would wear our best dresses; most were pink or red. And we wore our shiny black patent leather shoes, too. The boys wore shirts and ties. Back in the sixties, these school parties were a big thing; worthy of dress clothes. Special occasion at church clothes. No jeans or T-shirts…we couldn’t wear jeans and T-shirts to school ever. It was against the dress code. And if you violated the code, you were sent to the principal’s office and your parents were called. You’d have to sit there until they came and got you…and you weren’t excused from school, either. That was a black mark against you. Something no kid wanted. We knew the rules, and we followed them…or else. We didn’t always know what or else meant, but we knew it wasn’t good, and we could guess.

After school, we hopped off the bus and ran down the driveway, right past the snowman we built after church yesterday. The sunshine and warmer temps made his carrot nose droop a little, and his hat was a bit crooked, but he still looked good to us. We always named our snowmen. This one was Frank. We were going to make another one today so he’d have a friend.

‘Hi Frank,’ we called as we whizzed by. We’d have to hurry and change out of our school clothes if we wanted to play outside before supper. Mom and dad had strict rules about that.

‘What‘s this?’ Asked my brother Darrell as he read the label on the box. Being three years older and big for his age, he didn’t have to climb on a chair to read the label on the top like I did. ‘Oooh, Christmas!’ He crooned as he carried the crate into the living room.

Gary and I chimed together, ‘From Auntie Ann!’

We left a trail of jackets, hats and mittens from the door through the kitchen, across the hallway and into the living room as we hurried after him. Boots were strewn helter skelter near the back door…well, sort of close to the door. Our school books were scattered across the table in our haste to get at the box.

The three of us ripped the paper away, sorting the contents into three piles.

That was the best thing about Aunt Ann. She ran late. For everything. And she did it well. We always got Christmas presents from her around Valentine’s Day. And our birthday gifts ran two to three months late, too. Like clockwork.

And we loved it. Every year, we had two Christmases and two birthdays…spaced pretty evenly apart. What kid wouldn’t like that?

There was one other thing Aunt Ann was late for. Something you wouldn’t think was even possible, but she pulled it off, although I don’t think she had much control over the circumstances. At any rate,…it was true to form for her.

Her memorial service. Yup. She died and was late for her own funeral. Like her brother, Uncle Herb, always said…’Ann, you’ll be late for your own funeral.’  Little did he know. If he’d been alive at the time, he’d have gotten some serious mileage out of that!

But we were the only ones at her final send off who knew that she wasn‘t in her urn. She hadn’t been cremated yet, so she wasn’t there…physically. And with most of the family flying halfway across the country for the occasion, we couldn’t very well postpone the service. So we went ahead without her. She was used to that…it’d been happening all her life. I don’t think she’d have had it any other way.

At one point during the service in her quaint little chapel overlooking the Pacific, a gust of wind blew in and knocked Aunt Ann’s photo over…just laid it face down on the shelf. So maybe she was there after all. Maybe she didn’t like the photo we chose.

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