My Aunt Sophie by Terry Fitterer - Children's Stories Net

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  My Aunt Sophie
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What started out as another boring Saturday afternoon turned into a joyful trip down memory lane for me.
Hubby Mike and I had shipped the kids off to grandmas for the weekend so we could finally tackle the long overdue job of cleaning out the attic.
Not a very romantic weekend but it had to be done.
We were dividing the attic into two sections, junk to keep on the right and junk to throw out on the left, when I heard an outburst of laughter from Mike.
"Hey Janet, who's the funny looking lady with purple hair in this photograph?"
"Are you looking at those old Christmas pictures of your mother again?" I wise-cracked.
"No Miss Sarcastic, I've never seen this woman before.
Besides, everybody on my side looks normal!"
"That's what you think," I muttered as I set down my box of dismembered stuffed animals to go and take a look.
"I think it fell out of this beat-up old scrapbook," choked Mike as he batted at cobwebs hanging from the rafters.
"Why that's Sophie Wyckston!" I cried, "She's an aunt of mine who was probably a legend in her own time. And it's not purple hair, it's blue!"
As I sat looking at the yellowed photograph a smile came to my lips, and a wave of nostalgia filled my heart.
Had it really been nearly twenty years since my last visit with her?
The memories of those visits came flooding back to me so vividly, it was almost as if it were yesterday.
My Aunt Sophie.
Quite an eccentric old broad to put it mildly, everything she did amazed me.
On her 75th birthday she came waltzing down her wonderful, winding staircase in a pair of designer jeans, purple suede pumps, and an orange sweatshirt with the logo "There's No Fool Like An Old Fool" stenciled across the front.
She was a sight for sore eyes with that blue-tinted hair!
Then, to the horror of the Ladies Auxiliary, who were in attendance, she belted out a few bars of "Ten Cents a Dance" in a voice that could've cracked granite.
Sophie happened to be in her Ruth Etting mood that day!
I watched the whole thing from a crack between the drawing room doors and nearly busted a gut laughing.
I had spent every summer since I was eight years old with Aunt Sophie in that beautiful old house in Wyckston, North Carolina.
Come rain or shine, it was a joy being around her. She made every day seem like Christmas and the Fourth of July rolled into one.
Next to Sophie's priceless sense of humor, I loved the eerie, castle-like home she lived in best.
It sat high atop a great hill overlooking the town, nestled inside a forest of trees. It resembled a house right out of a Boris Karloff movie, complete with laboratory.
Sophie had modernized it but the old homestead remained exactly as it had been when she was growing up in it.
She always prided herself on being a meticulous person and it showed in her surroundings. She had let the housekeeper go several years earlier on the premise that 'if you want anything done right you have to do it yourself.'
Try as I might I could never come up with a dusty fingertip no matter what I brushed it across.
The solid oak archways throughout the house glistened in the sunlight every afternoon as we sipped tea on the terrace over#looking the elegant grounds. They were kept up faithfully every week by an elderly gentleman who had been with the family for years.
He was the only original hired help that Sophie hadn't outlived.
The exquisite gardens leading to the front of the house were landscaped in the shape of a huge maze, just like in pictures of castles over in England. As a child, I would hide for hours inside them pretending I was on safari in the jungle and a wild beast would jump out at me every time I walked through a different passage.
Occasionally, I would get lost and couldn't find my way out, so Sophie would send in the 'Hounds of the Baskerville' to lead me back to the house.
They consisted of one Yorkshire terrier, two black poodles, and a Hungarian wolf#hound.
The latter she claimed to have won in a poker game on a trip to Monte Carlo from the 'Count' of something or other.
To this day, nobody knows for sure if the two of them were really lovers or just another figment of Sophie's vivid imagination.
On rainy days, Sophie would cheer me up by suggesting we go down to the laboratory, which had been converted into a movie room, and watch reruns of "Now Voyager."
I bet that by the time I turned 17, I'd seen that movie more times than I cared to count, and I still never tired of hearing how it was just a toss of a coin that decided who would play opposite Paul Henreid, her or Bette Davis.
To this day she loves to flutter from guest to guest at parties and light two cigarettes at the same time the way Paul did in the movie.
Sometimes at night when I'd lay awake in her huge canopy bed, I'd actually start to believe some of the tales she told, only because in the back of my mind I really wanted to.
That's what made Sophie so special.
There was always something unexpected happening around her or a story being told that was so far-fetched you had to believe it.
Nevertheless, these tales always gave the town something to gossip about and that's what Sophie thrived on.
She was an expert at starting tongues wagging.
Personally, I think she liked all the attention it gave her, the more wild and brazen she could make something sound, the better.
The town of Wyckston was named after Sophie's family.
It was a small, sleepy sort of hamlet, but being it was her namesake she pretty much had the final say in how things were done concerning the community.
It was a safe bet that the candidate Sophie was backing would eventually become mayor.
Sometimes I wondered if the citizens didn't go along with her choice out of fear she'd run herself!
All of the holiday parades would start and end at her chosen destinations, and the fireworks display every summer was held in whatever location she deemed adequate. Not that the towns#folk agreed, but they dared not say anything to the contrary.
Sophie just sat up in that big mansion on her velvet throne and ruled the land.
Never one for marriage, 'too many strings to tie me down,' she'd say, she spent most of her adult life traveling the world over.
I don't think there was a place on the map to which she hadn't been. Sometimes we'd stay up until all hours of the morning in our bathrobes while she told of her many trips abroad, and I'd listen and absorb every last detail of every adventure.
I think she thought it would be good training for me since I would be entering into the real world soon. She never was too sold on my plans to go to college, being as it could never provide me with as much insight and knowledge as globe-trotting could.
One day in mid-August of that last summer, Sophie decided the time was right for showing me where all of her valuables were hidden. She didn't trust the bank because, according to her, the president was a womanizer and anyone who would cheat on his wife would cheat the public too.
She and my father were the only children in the family, and being considerably older she would surely be the first to check-out, and when she did everything would go to dad and eventually me.
She led me into the bedroom with a finger to her lips as if spies were lurking in the hallway and might hear our footsteps. Off the closet was another door that opened into a small, square room. The walls were literally covered with shelves filled from one end to the other with knick-knacks from all over the world. I felt as though I were standing in the middle of a flea market.
There were shrunken-heads from Africa, jade statues from China, ivory elephant tusks from India, and the list went on. To anyone else these would just have been dust collectors, but to Sophie they were prized possessions. Her father's inheritance and the house meant less to her than this roomful of souvenirs. To her they were priceless.
The remaining few weeks flew by and soon it was time to head for the train station.
I was off to college and Sophie was on her second trip to the Orient.
It was a sad day for me because I knew it would probably be the last summer I'd spend in Wyckston.
College activities would keep me occupied and there would be new friends to keep me busy.
With tears running down my cheeks, I waved goodbye.
Sophie never made it back from the Orient this time.
I fell in love with my college sweetheart and got married.
I wish Mike could've met Sophie...he would've loved her.
Mike's voice penetrated my daydream, "Earth calling Janet... come in! Where have you been? I'm almost done with my half of the attic!"
I looked up at him, still in a nostalgic daze, and smiled, "I've been on vacation, dear, and I visited with the most interesting person in the world."

The End

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