In Praise of Aunt Dot

My oldest daughter’s girl scout troop was tasked with making a diorama to remember a loved one on the upcoming Day of the Dead. To her father’s amazement and joy, Buttercup chose to honor his great-aunt Dot, who was the only “grandmother” he had as a youngster.

My husband’s mother, Peggy, lost her own mother when she was twelve. The early 60s being what they were, her dad didn’t really understand how to parent, so Peggy went to live with Dot, her married, much older sister. Peggy got married shortly after graduating high school and, times being what they were, got pregnant within a year. She told me that she felt she needed to have her children as young as possible, because she had always assumed she would die young like her own mother. This is a common phenomenon for people who have lost a parent during their childhood.

However, Peggy was very unlucky in her choice of first husband. He became abusive when she was pregnant with their second child. Peggy packed up her toddler and fled to Dot’s house, a safe haven and a place she could stay until she had given birth to the second baby and could find a job to support herself and the children.

The soon-to-be-ex husband, Dave, came ‘looking for his woman’ because he was going to take her back home where she belonged, like the chattel she was. He boldly entered Dot’s house, confident that there was nothing a middle-aged woman could do to stop him.

Boy howdy, was he mistaken.

It was 1972, and Dot was talking to a friend on one of those heavy black phones people used to have when she sees Dave walk in. Dot, according to those who witnessed the event, did not say “hang on a minute” to the person she was speaking to, or warn Dave to get out and stay away from her baby sister. Nope. Dot just started thwacking Dave with the phone without hesitation. She broke her phone … and his jaw. Dave never, ever tried to ‘get his woman’ back again, because Dot made it clear that he’d be attending his own funeral forthwith.

Peggy went on to marry Ron, a wonderful guy, and have her third child. That little boy, born in the spring of ‘76,  was doted upon by Aunt Dot and grew up to be a wonderful guy like his dad. When I started dating him, I got to hear the stories of his Aunt Dot, which are legion and legendary.

Shortly after we got engaged, Peggy gave me Aunt Dot’s favorite cup, telling me it was because I reminded her of her older sister in a lot of ways. I cried, because I have seldom received a compliment that meant more to me. Then I laughed when Casey’s father said, without thinking it through, that I wasn’t that bad. Apparently, Dot was not only brave and loving, she was cantankerous and temperamental and honest to the point of pain.

Our daughters have all grown up hearing how Aunt Dot took care of Nanny, and last year my husband told Buttercup about how his Aunt Dot have saved her Nanny from a bad man. Buttercup was enthralled with this tale. Thus, it was in her diorama and in her tale of whom she was honoring … which I am sure was GREAT for the girl scout leaders.

Here’s a picture of the diorama and Aunt Dot’s cup:

Dot diorama and cup

Here’s a close-up of the diorama: (Dot was a brunette, but Buttercup assumed she was a redhead.)

Dot diorama closeup

Here’s the section where Dot is playing with a young Nanny:

Dot taking care of Nanny as a child

And finally, here’s Dot saving a pregnant young Nanny from the bad guy:

Dot beating the shit out of the bad guy

Aunt Dot, I wish I could have met you, and I hope you know your legend and your love lives on.

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