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Aunt Clara’s 2 Cents

Reflections of the last ‘blood moon’


by Aunt Clara –

Aunt Clara was so excited to be in Grafton during the recent “blood moon” experience. So many of our friends and neighbors were out with their cameras and telescopes. The last time Aunt Clara experienced the “blood moon” was the summer of 1982. Ronald Reagan was in the White House, a gallon of gas was 92 cents and you could buy a home in Grafton for $40,000. In 1982 nobody would have believed that the son of the current vice president, George Bush, would one day become president.

It was in 1982 Burt and I went to see the Stephen Spielberg film, “E.T.” In the film an alien being that loves Reese’s Pieces, finds friendship in America and tries to use a phone to get home. One interesting thing about the candy used in the film is that Spielberg wanted it to be the popular chocolate coated treat, M & M’s.

The Mars Company refused to let their tiny alphabet candies be part of such a strange movie so instead the Hershey’s company agreed to let the film use their brand new peanut butter creation. The local cinemas filled their shelves with Reese’s Pieces so that children could enjoy eating the candy in their seats with the alien character in the film. In this way E.T. became the first interactive film and a precursor to our 3D films of today.

In 1982 the common commercial of the day on television was “Raid kills bugs dead,” Nike shoes had their first television advertisement, and Fred the Dunkin’ Donuts baker said, “time to make the donuts” for the first time. Burt became addicted to the brand new Weather Channel, and we saw the first ever compact disc player show up at the local RadioShack. The first disc Burt bought was a recording from 1979 of Claudio Arrau performing Chopin Waltzes. Oh how Burt loved those waltzes.

In Time, for the first time ever, their man of the year was not a human but a computer. Over 2 million computers were sold in America. The magazine discusses the new Apple computer coming out called “the Lisa.” For $10,000 (about $25,000 in today’s dollars) you could own it, which also included the first mouse. Of course all computers of that time had a big floppy hat disc. Somehow the words you would see on the computer screen were all kept on that disc; at least that is what Burt told Aunt Clara.

Burt did buy himself a Commodore 64 computer in 1982 and for the life of Aunt Clara she never understood why. Burt would sit at the ugly looking thing for hours poking and pecking out what he called code, finally making a ball bounce across the screen. Burt would jump with glee as he would call the neighbors over to see his work of genius. Too bad Burt did not live to see the World Wide Web computer of today.

All the young kids were wearing Deely Bobbers in 1982. The Deely Bobber was a headband to which was affixed two springy protrusions resembling the antennae of insects. Most kids would have pom-poms or light emitting diodes on their Deely Bobbers. Unbelievably these things were patented and they made someone a millionaire. Just goes to show people were just as silly in the 1980s as they are today.

Aunt Clara has done a lot of living since that “blood moon” of 1982. She owns a smartphone that is smarter than most people she knows as well as a state of the art computer with a mouse and everything. Remembering passwords is easy mcbreezy for this grande dame. Aunt Clara’s password is always “incorrect,” of course, that way as she gets more forgetful her computer tells her “your password is incorrect.”


A union by temperance

by Aunt Clara –

Aunt Clara’s mother, Matilda, would not have approved of the recent push to legalize marijuana. She was a proud and active member of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and devoted herself to positive reform based on Christian principles. She became an activist after her father was run down and killed by an inebriated wagon driver with six mules. Abolishing alcohol became her life’s mission.

Mother always used her powers for good, founding a mission for errant girls, a Sunday school and a temperance reading room. Before she founded the reading room almost all meetings and social gatherings were held in inns and public houses. Men would go to a meeting, drink a few pints and accomplish nothing. The temperance rooms were places where people of high moral character could go to discuss important issues without dealing with inebriated speakers.

Mother supported the WCTU White Life for Two program where men would reach women’s higher moral standing — and thus become woman’s equal — by engaging in lust-free, alcohol-free, tobacco-free marriages. My father had his last taste of liquor the night before he married Matilda when she spoke those sweet words of love, “Lips that touch wine will never touch mine.”

Soon prohibition was born. Mother worked tirelessly to close down the “Blind Pig” establishments, places where one could pay to see an attraction, such as a blind pig, and get a free drink. This way alcohol was not being “sold.”

Mother was also part of the group that tried to have all references of alcohol removed from the Bible and to ensure that real wine was not used in communion. “Surely God cannot live in an alcoholic beverage,” mother surmised.

Her greatest accomplishment was tying prohibition to fighting World War I. Matilda succeeded in winning wartime bans on strong drink by arguing that barley used in brewing beer could be made into bread to feed American soldiers and war-ravaged Europeans. Even with mother’s best efforts wine was still permitted for religious purposes (the number of questionable rabbis and priests soon skyrocketed.) Drugstores were allowed to sell “medicinal whiskey” to treat everything from toothaches to the flu. With a physician’s prescription, “patients” could legally buy a pint of hard liquor every ten days. This pharmaceutical booze often came with seemingly laughable doctor’s orders such as “take three ounces every hour for stimulant until stimulated.”

Bootleggers produced millions of gallons of bathtub gin and rotgut moonshine during Prohibition. This illicit hooch had a famously foul taste, and those desperate enough to drink it also ran the risk of being struck blind or even poisoned. Quinine and methyl alcohol tainted booze killed hundreds of poor drinkers but mother wanted to continue standing strong. President Roosevelt felt differently and when the 21st Amendment was ratified he stated, “What Americans need now is a stiff drink.” Mother was appalled at his weakness but her cries went on deaf ears. The depression had left the government coffers bare and Roosevelt needed those alcohol tax dollars to get the country moving again.

Father did go out and get drunk the day prohibition was repealed. Everyone thought that Matilda would make his life not worth living, but the next day they were seen holding hands in the park and mother had a huge smile on her face. Come to find out, Father did come home drunk and vomited all over the bathroom after breaking a lamp when he fell down. When mother tried to clean him up he adamantly exclaimed, “Get away from me lady, I have the best woman in all the world waiting for me at home!”


Who is this Ashley Madison?

by Aunt Clara –

Aunt Clara has had a dear reader request for her about this thing that happened on the world wide Internets. It seems this busy body woman named Ashley Madison has been creating all kinds of mischief. It is this reporter’s understanding that since Ashley Madison was a young woman she was trying to be a match maker. It started with people she knew locally and then, as her reputation grew, more and more matches were made. First in person and on the telephone and then on the whole Internets.

The problem is that some of these people Ashley Madison was finding matches for were already engaged or even married. To other people. Dear me, how was this possible? Reminds me of a busybody that Aunt Clara knew growing up, Miss Sylvia Knott. Sylvia was the teacher’s pet from the first grade on and was both a tattle tale and a little miss know-it-all. If Billy Hosier only ate half his Spam sandwich for lunch, you better believe that Sylvia would be the first one to tell his mother. If Chippy Wooster would not share the blocks at playtime, Sylvia would be right up there at the teacher’s desk before you could say Lincoln Logs.

Sylvia also considered herself a matchmaker and was sure she knew who should and should not be together, just like Ashley Madison. I am sure Ashley Madison was an impudent child when she was young, just like Sylvia Knott. Sylvia could have used her powers of persuasion to be class president, or work on big things like curing cancer or world hunger (she was certainly smart enough) but instead chose to use her powers for more frivolous ventures like matchmaking.

Aunt Clara would assume that Ashley Madison was the same. Just the fact that she was able to get so many people to come to her for matchmaking advice — millions if the press can be believed — makes one think she had the power to influence many.

Aunt Clara would never have believed that anyone in Grafton would ever feel the need to seek out the advice of Ashley Madison. But if the statistics are accurate, there are more than a few. Aunt Clara has always been able to pick out a cad in any group of gentlemen, and I am sure that my dear readers have probably run into a few in town.

You know the type, smile a little too bright, shirt a little too white, shoes always shined, and quick with a compliment. These were the types of men Aunt Clara’s mother warned her about from the time she was a little girl. “Don’t go in the cabbage patch with that scalawag,” mother would say, pointing to a smiling young man with a rose in his lapel, or “that man there will only try to give you a green gown,” she would admonish when a certain frat boy would walk in the room.

We girls certainly know who the “cabbage patch boys” are in Grafton and who is most likely privatizing their computers on Ashley Madison. It’s as plain as the trimmed eyebrow hair on their face. Aunt Clara could tell these cads that there is nothing in Ashley Madison’s web of deceit that they cannot find in their own homes in Grafton. Just remember what Aunt Clara’s mother told her the night before she got married. “I’ve learned that marriage is the best teacher of all. It teaches you loyalty, forbearance, meekness, self-restraint, forgiveness and a great many other qualities you wouldn’t need if you had just stayed single!”


Burt the lawbreaker

by Aunt Clara –

Burt was a regular lawbreaker. Aunt Clara did not know this about him until after the wedding. You know the adage, “We hide our flaws until ‘after’ the wedding!” Burt was always at the courthouse looking up old Commonwealth laws still on the books, and then going out and break that law. He even had a little book he carried around that listed all the laws and when and where he was when he broke that law.

The first one he broke was at my grandmother’s funeral. There is a law that remains on the books that states no mourner may eat no more than three sandwiches at a wake. Of course it does not clarify the size of sandwiches, whether it be finger sandwiches or full size grinders. Burt stuffed himself on pesto chicken, egg salad and even anchovy-lemon butter sandwiches at the wake. Aunt Clara was so embarrassed introducing people to Burt while he was eating his craw with three or four sandwiches. He ate until he could not walk straight. In his book he named every type and amount of sandwich. He even made a point of eating right in front of the chief of police, probably waiting to be arrested. The chief just shook his head and walked away.

It is illegal in Massachusetts to scare a pigeon. So, like a wild man, Burt had to run after every pigeon he saw. He would write every encounter in his book while he searched out more birds to frighten.

Burt made a point of letting everyone know he was “not” carrying a rifle to church. Burt would make sure to let the other parishioners know he was breaking the law. Of course, hunting on Sunday is prohibited also so whatever would these men be shooting with their rifles? It is also illegal in Grafton to spit on the sidewalk. This was a disgusting law that Burt just had to break. “Whatever will the neighbors think, Burt?” Aunt Clara would admonish, but to no avail. Aunt Clara thinks this law is a good one and should still be enforced, but the police just don’t seem to feel the same way.

Burt was always writing and scribbling on our milk cartons as soon as we purchased one. Of course, it is illegal to deface a milk carton. Aunt Clara always made sure Burt did not have any markers when we went to the market lest he defaced all the milk containers in the grocery store. Burt loved to draw a milk mustache on the milk girl’s face or make the cow into a horse on the carton.

Burt refused to bathe before retiring to bed. This was, of course, because there is an obscure law on the books that states one must bathe before going to bed. Aunt Clara feels this is a good law and should include flossing but the State Senate does not seem to agree.

When any of our friends were in the hospital Burt always made sure to visit them every day. Not because Burt was so caring but because he just had to bring them a beer — it is illegal to bring a hospital patient beer. Burt did not care if they drank it or not, his part was done as soon as he walked in the patient’s room with that illegal substance. Aunt Clara did forbid Burt from bringing beer to my saint of a mother when she was on her deathbed. Aunt Clara told Burt in no uncertain terms that if he ever brought that woman a beer while she was in the hospital, then Aunt Clara would be breaking a law of her own. Since it is illegal to beat a rug in front of a house, Aunt Clara is sure that beating a recalcitrant husband on the doorstep would be breaking some silly law.


Rock, Paper, Scissors

by Aunt Clara –

Aunt Clara wanted to go to the prom with Bobby Truant. Yes Aunt Clara was once a young girl with wants and dreams just like any other young girl. Well it should be Aunt Clarified that I was never as silly as the other frivolous girls were and certainly had a much higher I.Q. than any one of them, but that goes without saying.

Anyway, Esther Thomas, the daughter of a local physician and number one cheerleader also had her eye on Bobby (the dreamboat) Truant. Esther had an uninteresting face made to look good by using cream rouge followed by powder, giving the face a “glowing” appearance. In reality she had a pasty white pallor, too large a nose and lips that only a mother would ever want to kiss. I knew this because we had pajama parties and I saw what her future husband had to look forward to. Her hair was flat and depressing and even running a brush through it 100 times a night could not make it shine.

On my first sleepover at her house I watched her mother create what I thought was a cream sauce for tomorrow’s supper. It had eggs, mayonnaise, vinegar, and almond oil. Imagine my surprise when I watched Esther take a big spatula and scoop that goop right onto her head. Note to anyone trying this at home; it did not work.

Aunt Clara knew of course that she could beat Esther in the looks department, but the concern was that Bobby would be blinded by the make-up, the big fancy house and her wardrobe. She had those animal pattern sweaters that were all the rage, she wore dresses sent from Greece and India that had tons of beautiful floral patterns and ankle boots with embroidered velvet. Esther was the first girl in Grafton to wear her hair in a pageboy style and tied back with a Washington bow and the first to wear a tiny sailor hat loaded down with feathers. Aunt Clara admits to being more than a little jealous of that hat! The latest styles worn by Katherine Hepburn, Maureen O’Sullivan, and Marlene Dietrich would find their way onto Esther’s gangly frame.

How could Aunt Clara compete with that? With her superior mind and ability to overcome all obstacles of course. Aunt Clara befriended the vacuous and giddy Esther during that long hot Grafton summer. Listening to Esther giggle and gaggle over Clark Cable, Yul Brennar, and Cary Grant was almost unbearable, but Aunt Clara smiled and pretended to be interested and should have been given an academy award for how well she acted.

In those days there was only one way to settle any argument between teenagers and that was the game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. Now in the hands of most teenagers this was a game of chance, with random outcomes and an even playing field. But Aunt Clara’s superior mind was able to turn this game from a game of chance to a game of certainty. By playing a few games a week for small stakes Aunt Clara learned Esther’s unconscious patterns and predilections. Aunt Clara had learned long ago that most girls will start with scissors and most boys will begin with Rock. Esther was no exception. Aunt Clara let Esther win many of those games over the summer and quietly set her trap, so when it came time for the prom she was more than ready. Since Aunt Clara and Esther were both such good friends and they both liked Bobby Truant, it was decided that it was only fair that one of them should step aside and let the other one have him. It was the only right thing to do.

Of course the only game that could ever be fair in deciding Bobby’s fate was Rock, Paper, Scissors; a true game of chance. As Aunt Clara predicted Esther started with scissors and Aunt Clara threw down rock. Most naïve players will repeat their last choice thinking that their opponent would never expect that. Aunt Clara was ready and again rock beat scissors. Aunt Clara was a student of pattern recognition and had been studying Esther all summer. Esther also had tells, whenever she was going to choose rock she made her fist really tight as if holding a rock. It was like taking candy from a baby and Aunt Clara won the last throw, paper over rock.

All that was left was to choose the dress Aunt Clara would wear. After much thought it was decided that a sleek yet demure mint green Bias cut silk chiffon gown would looked lovely. Her date was dashing and they were the talk of the town for weeks after. For her part Esther always believed that there was some sort of shenanigans that caused her to lose out on having Bobby for a prom date but could never prove it.

40 years later Aunt Clara attended her high school reunion and both Esther and Bobby were there. Poor Bobby hadn’t aged well, the years had truly been unkind. Alcohol and McDonalds had taken their toll. Aunt Clara realized Esther had truly forgiven her about the prom when it was decided they would go for two out of three of Rock, Paper, Scissors to see who ‘didn’t’ have to take Bobby home with them!