However, just so that you don't think I'm completely lazy, here is a little story I wrote three years ago, before I left for college. I meant to make it a regular feature on my Facebook notes (I was that girl. Ahem), but I never got around to it. Maybe I will do that here. In any case, I haven't looked at it or even gone through and spell-checked it since I was eighteen, so please, be gentle.
Words from Aunt Erma
Last night was, in essence, my last night in this house. Sure, I may come back for vacations, but it won't really be my home anymore. For all I know, my family could adopt a homeless child or a vagabond off the street while I’m away and give him my lovely castle room, making me sleep in the basement--or outside beneath the porch with the bats in the snow.
So what is waiting out there for me and all my friends in the Real World (a.k.a. College: The Mini-Real World, the Next Step On the Road to the Real World)?
To answer this question I have called upon the wisdom of my Great-Great-Great Aunt Erma to enlighten us all about what to expect and how to navigate this strange and wonderful new world of Almost-Adulthood.
Everyone thought Aunt Erma was dead until she showed up in a secret bunker under the house in California. I heard her late one night, or rather I heard some mysterious loud noises, when I was downstairs finding something to nibble on. I abandoned my crackers for a moment and followed the sounds to the air vent by the stairs. Curiosity got the better of me, and I pried the vent aside and shimmied through the metal tube, which gave way suddenly in the darkness and dropped me ten feet onto something cold and hard which I promptly concluded was the ground. I congratulated myself that my mental faculties were still in excellent working order after my fall. It was dark and quiet.
Then suddenly I heard her to my left—a great howl of laughter from the corner, the dim light of a dying overhead bulb just illuminating the outline of her slumped form. In her lap was a shotgun. I looked at her and she started in with another ringing peal of laughter. She was quite honestly the most frightening old lady I’ve ever seen. She picked up the shotgun in a quick motion and aimed it at me.
“POW!” Her voice was sharp, and I jumped as if it had been a bullet.
She gave a low chuckle at my flinch and laid the gun back in her lap, stroking it fondly.
“Missed,” she muttered.
I glanced around the place. The walls were packed dirt and the whole room smelled of roots and musty earth. On the wall behind me, however, long strips of white butcher paper had been tacked together, hanging down side by side, to make a giant banner of sorts. “ERMA WAS HER,” it read.
“What does the sign mean?” I asked.
“Here,” she said in a raspy voice. “Erma was here. I ran outta bullets.” She went back to caressing her gun.
Since then we’ve become the best of friends, naturally. After she hoisted me up on her shoulders—she is still quite strong for a lady who’s been in a hole since 1870—I crawled out the vent (if I hadn’t explained that somebody would have asked oh-so-smugly how I got out of there) and ran back to the kitchen to get her some food. All we had in the fridge were leftover lasagna, a half-eaten banana, and a whole, raw ham; but she didn’t seem to mind. She didn’t care much for the leftovers, but I heard her humming to herself a little between gentle slurping noises and the sound of ripping animal flesh.
“Don’t you have anything live?” she called from below.
“What?!” I said.
“Oh, never mind. Bring more ham!”
I visited her every night after my family had gone to bed, always bringing a large chunk of meat for her to gnaw on as I told her about my day. We talked for hours, giggling and gossiping like two schoolgirls. I painted her nails and braided her hair, and she showed me the proper way to skin a bear, which was quite a feat considering she didn’t even have a bear handy to demonstrate on. She didn’t want anyone to know about her, and I can’t say I blamed her; a shy little thing like Erma would have been overwhelmed by the media attention that would result from being the Oldest Human Being Alive.
One time I asked her how she had managed to live so long in that hole with no apparent food source—and how she came to be there in the first place. She told me it wasn’t really so uncommon for people to live to be several hundred years old. Just look at Methuselah, she said. She meant to be just as old as he, and then when she died she would rub it in his face. Then she explained that she had always followed her family wherever they had moved—but secretly, so they wouldn’t think she was too clingy. We were the last living descendents related to her by blood, so she had settled with us. This was an obvious lie since she had been living in the hole for over a century, but I let her think I believed her. She was a lonely old lady just looking for a family, and after all, she had been there first.
On the food issue she was a little vague, but she did launch into a long description of the five friends she had brought down with her when she originally dug the hole. I didn’t ask where they were now; I feared I might meet the same fate as they.
Things got a little tricky with the move, but after some thought I just rolled her up in a large braided rug and shipped her off on the truck. I cannot divulge where she is now in case this blog is compromised, but suffice it to say she’s “living in a box” in the “basement.” There, I don’t think that gave too much away.
Last night I was down there talking to her as usual. She was finishing off a rack of lamb I had brought her, and I was perched on a bin of camping supplies hemming a pair of pants.
Me: Aunt Erma, I’m moving to college tomorrow. Are you going to be alright by yourself?
Erma: (looking surprised) You’re leaving?
Me: Yes, Aunt Erma, for college. You remember I told you? I’ve actually told you about it quite a few times. Probably close to sixty times in the past month and a half.
Erma: No you haven’t.
Me: I have!
Erma: Don’t talk back to me. Did you bring any salt?
Me: It’s there, by the lantern. Anyway, I’m leaving tomorrow. Are you going to be able to take care of yourself? Who will bring you food when I’m gone?
Erma: (she pauses from sucking on a bone to give me a sly smile) What makes you think I’ll stay here?
Me: You mean—
Erma: (nodding) Somebody’s got to watch out for you. I know what the girls are like these days, just throwing themselves at the boys, letting their hormones run wild and giving up their carnal flowers willy-nilly. And you’re just as bad as any of them. I would think that my great-great-great-niece would at least show some decency, but there you are with your ankles showing. If your mother isn’t going to keep an eye on you, it’s up to me to make sure you don’t end up with Chlamydia or something.
Me: Aunt Erma! What do you think of me?!
Erma: Oh, all the girls are sluts these days. It wasn’t like that in my time. Girls didn’t go to college then. They didn’t even go to grammar school. My mother had me and my twelve sisters married off as soon as we hit puberty. Why, when I was your age I already had seven children. Hold on, how old are you again? Eighteen? Sorry, I had nine—the twins came that year. The point is, you should forget about college and spend your time looking for a husband. And until you find one you can get me that leftover meatloaf. I could smell it last night all the way down here.
Me: Oh, Aunt Erma. You’re behind the times. Men don’t just want a breeding machine anymore. It just isn’t the way! Men want an intelligent woman, one with whom they can share ideas and engage in stimulating conversation.
Erma: Conversation? Ha! That’s what you think. They’re looking for stimulation alright, but not from conversation. I thought you were getting my meatloaf?
I fetched the meatloaf and she pounced on it, too focused on devouring it to continue our conversation.
So today I face a host of new experiences—meeting new people, becoming acquainted with the school, settling in to my new home. And Aunt Erma will be there every step of the way, guiding me in her gentle manner. And as she enlightens me further I will pass on her advice to you, my friends, so that we may all benefit from the wisdom of age and experience. Stay tuned for more Words from Aunt Erma. Godspeed, and all that.