…Aunt Agnes tried so hard to be a good aunt! She always gave us Christmas presents, and paid for them out of her left-over grocery money, as frugal homemakers did back then. It never occurred to me to think about what she didn’t purchase for herself, in order to be able to bless us with gifts. Charles earned the money, and probably kept a tight a budget that Agnes followed. They would come for Christmas dinner, bearing beautifully-wrapped presents for each of us. Usually, we girls were given underwear that we had to open in front of everyone! Once in a while we got something that Agnes had lovingly hand-made. We were ungrateful then, and didn’t appreciate all the work that I’m sure she put in those handicrafts. One year we each got robes sewn out of towels. I’m sure the idea in Good Housekeeping or Better Homes and Gardens magazine was really cute and clever, but olive green robes in the late 1960s made out of hand-towels didn’t go over very well. We were stunned, speechless, but my mom gave us dirty looks so we managed to show fake smiles and offer, lying, “Thanks,” to our dear aunt and uncle who didn’t get why we were squirming.
I’m sure if you asked my sisters to share the thing they remembered most about Aunt Agnes, they would agree with me and say “gelatin salads!” Now, these weren’t the wonderful bowls with fruit and whipped cream that we all love to this day. Instead, they were typically green gelatin, with grated carrots and nuts, which had been chilled in a copper gelatin mold pan. To unmold the salad, the pan was dipped in hot water to loosen the gelatin. As it was flipped over at the table, so as to unmold the gelatin, the previously delectable chilled salad had warm, runny gelatin liquid pouring all over the serving platter!
She certainly tried hard to be a good hostess, and we children learned a lesson every time we drove home with Mom and Dad, who reminded us that when people share what they have, regardless of what it is, we should be grateful. After all, the starving children in Vietnam would never have such treats as cold gelatin salad. We sulked in the back seat, thinking to ourselves, “Lucky for those kids….”