She’s last, but she finally made it to the family reunion carrying a bowl of potato salad because she swears hers is the best and she can’t eat just anybody’s potato salad. Actually, she can’t eat just anybody’s food – period – because she doesn’t know how everybody else keeps house. She also has packets of hot sauce in her purse (right between those peppermint candies, a trial size hand lotion, a pack of tissues, and a mini perfume stick of White Diamonds) just in case the food ain’t seasoned quite right.
You’re not sure what her real name is, but it says “Tweety” on her license plate, so you call her Aunt Tweety. That’s OK though because she can never get yours right either.
“Uh…Brian…uh Brandon…uh Benson…”
“Aunt Tweety, it’s Marcus.”
“Yeah, Marcus, honey run out to the car real fast and bring Aunt Tweety her sandals in the back seat. I need to get these shoes off.” She’s only been there five minutes and hasn’t helped with any of the cooking, but her feet hurt. You do what she says even though you are not her child.
Aunt Tweety is driving a champagne-colored Mazda, but you’re not sure if she bought it or if it’s a rental since her son wrecked the black Altima she used to drive. Your cousin Junior is 32-years-old and still lives at home with Aunt Tweety, his only occupation being going down to the corner to buy Kool cigarettes for her. She’s always complaining to anyone who’ll listen that he needs to get up out her house and move in with “one a dem lil gals” (but not the fast-tailed one she told not to come by there again unless she’s bringin the granbabies with her).
The Mazda is just outside the front door because no matter the occasion, Aunt Tweety always has the best parking spot. She’ll wait for 20 minutes behind someone getting ready to leave instead of parking 2 spaces further from the door. There’s a Christmas tree air freshener hanging from the mirror, but the car always smells like swap meet incense. You grab her sandals – kitten heels – but at least they kind of go with the capri pants she has on (with her t-shirt tucked into the elastic waistband, obviously). She put on her nice pants today because she just got her hair done, but didn’t comb out any of the curls.
You go back inside to hand off the shoes, which she will put on over her stockings.
Aunt Tweety is in conversation with Aunt Sheila, so you put the shoes under the chair holding her purse – black aunties never put their purse on the floor.
AT: You been doin good?
AS: Can’t complain, can’t complain. You?
AT: Oh, blessed and highly favored.
AS: I tried to call you the other night, Thursday…
AT: Oh we took the grans out to Applebee’s.
AS: Oh that musta been nice!
AT: It was, it was. Me and Otis wanted to go to the Red Lobsters, but not with the chirrn.
AS: I been had a taste for some cheddar biscuits truth be told, we should go one weekend.
AT: Y’all should come on down to our church one Sunday and we can go after. Just let me know when.
You always have to let Aunt Tweety know when you comin to visit the church ahead of time because she ain’t always there herself. Sunday is when she usually catches up on her stories and all the week’s programming featuring Steve Harvey. You remember that from the last time you spent the weekend there, sleeping on the couch because the extra bedroom is her exercise room. It’s really just a treadmill and then a whole lot of bags from Kohl’s/Macy’s/Burlington Coat Factory sales, plus random things from every flea market in the area, but she calls it her exercise room anyway.
The living room is fine though, even though the TV is always playing the Temptations movie on VHS. Or the Jacksons movie. She has a big earth tone sectional sofa on the main wall below a “black art” picture.
At one end of the sofa is an end table with decorative giraffes. The other end has a decorative elephant on the floor. Those coupled with the African masks on the wall almost make you think she knows her roots, but her only connection to Africa is the fake kente tablecloth she puts out during Kwanzaa.
The dining room and kitchen are one big room, the only decoration being the Footprints poster (you know the one) above the dining room table and a ridiculously oversized wooden fork and spoon hanging near the stove. When she’s cooking, no one is allowed in her kitchen until everything is done, which means you have to stay out from 8am when cooking starts until 2pm when dinner is served extremely early. She cooked all day, but she won’t eat – she just sits down with a piece of chicken on a paper towel.
Unless she’s on a diet. In that case, she won’t eat all day, sitting down for dinner with 6,000 calories on the plate, too much salt in the food, and wine with ice in it.
Obviously no food is allowed in the other living room, the fancy one that no one ever goes in, with the empty candy dish on the table, the floor model television that doesn’t work and is just there to showcase old pictures of your aunts and uncles from back when photos were all shades of red, a black Jesus hanging on the wall, plants – every plant in the world, the *new* furniture that’s been there since you can remember (covered in plastic), and this wicker chair:
This is the room where she keeps all her CDs too. She really likes Mary Mary. This is also where she keeps all of her Terry McMillan and Eric Jerome Dickey books, along with the biggest Bible you’ve ever seen. In white.
Back in the present, Aunt Sheila and Aunt Tweety are still making summer plans, probably involving Frankie Beverly & Maze lawn tickets at an outdoor pavilion. You sneak away before anyone mentions how much they miss Luther Vandross and how nobody makes music like him and Teddy Pendergrass and Peabo Byrson anymore. You try to find your mom to let her know Aunt Tweety is here before she runs into your dad. Aunt Tweety is your mom’s sister and she fights with your dad, especially after a few wine coolers. She’s usually ok, but certain situations set her off: waiting in a line that’s not moving and saying to no one in particular, “This don’t make no kinda sense”; making commentary about a conversation she wasn’t invited to join, with “Let that been ME…”; or just refusing to comment at all, letting her true feelings known with a side-eye and a grunt. No, we don’t want to see Aunt Tweety turn up, so keep her away from Dad.
It’s the end of the reunion anyway. Once the music comes on, she’ll be the first one to get up and start line dancing. She’ll also be the first to leave the dancefloor to fix a plate for everyone at home who didn’t come. She won’t be cooking tonight because she has a spades game Uncle Otis organized. He’s a barber (or thinks he is) and only wears casual linen short sleeved suits with shoes like this:
They’ll play spades (maybe some bid whist), but not too late because they both have work, starting the day with The Tom Joyner Morning Show and a reminder to tell Junior to go find a job.