Monday, April 23, 2018     Volume: 19, Issue: 7

Santa Maria Sun / Humor

The following article was posted on September 18th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 28 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 14, Issue 28

The three sisters who check off all the boxes


My mother has two younger sisters to whom I have often referred on this page as Aunts 1 and 2 in order to protect the guilty. However, I have openly written about Mom using her name, Donna. It is high time that I out my aunts, whose names are Lorna, the oldest of the two, and Sharon. My Aunt Sharon is, in fact, the baby of the family, the last child my grandmother had.

As children, they played together in the woods near the farmhouse that my grandfather had built on the dairy farm that was their home. The girls grew up calling each other “Putts” or “Putteroo” and still do. This nickname came from watching a neighbor, Mr. Johnson, drive his Model A past their house. Really! This is not an old-age joke made at their expense. The guy drove a really old car.

Aunt Lorna told me how it made a putt-putt noise and they called him “Putt-Putt Johnson.” Eventually, they jokingly called each other “Putt-Putt” and it soon became simply “Putts.” Of course, you can imagine the look on my Jewish-British husband’s face the first time he heard it. “Don’t they like each other?” he asked me. I think the poor man was wondering what kind of family he married into.

Mom told me how, as little girls, they would gather pinecones and use them to mark out the outlines of little houses, one for each of them. They then pretended to visit one another and have tea parties there in the woods.

Mom was always the protector of her younger sisters. There were also four brothers in the house. Three have passed away, and my Uncle Ron, the oldest of the bunch, is now perceived as a sort of gentle Italian patriarch.

Aunt Lorna is by far the most methodical of the three sisters and is a perpetual worrier. Several years ago, her son, Kirk, returned home from a trip to Italy. He told her how his luggage was waylaid upon his arrival there.

“Oh, God! God, I just knew that would happen!” she fretted.

“Mom,” my cousin soothed, “I got it eventually. It’s OK.”

But did he stop there? Oh, no! The foolish man continued to relate his adventure of trying to get a taxi from the airport late at night because the flight had been delayed.

“Oh, God! I knew it! I just knew it! It’s so dangerous on the streets in Milan so late at night,” she exclaimed.

“Mom,” reminded Kirk, “I got a cab. I got to the hotel just fine. I’m home now, safe and sound, standing right here in front of you. Stop worrying!”

This is a typical scenario. All three women would meet at various times in Spokane, Wash. where we all were born. My grandfather was still living there, but quite elderly and in need of home care.

His daughters would periodically come together to check on him. They also took these opportunities to discuss us—their offspring—with each other and compare notes. We all had a name for this, referring to their little gatherings as The Summit Meetings.

On one occasion, Mom and Aunt Lorna had to take Grandpa for a medical checkup on a cold, blustery day. When they arrived and he realized where he was, he refused to get out of the car.

The Worrier went into action and pleaded with him: “Dad, please get out of the car, for the love of God! It’s freezing outside and the doctor is waiting.”

Mom never worries, she just fumes quietly: “Damn him! I could have just pinched his little head off!” she later told me. As her sister continued to plead with the obstinate patient, Mom (having lost her patience) brought the doctor out and he coaxed Grandpa inside with the promise of a cup of coffee.

My Aunt Sharon has always been the free spirit and even worked as a go-go dancer in the 1960s. No, that is not an old-age joke, either, she told me about it. She has always been quick to have the solution to any problem.

Once, when I visited, her then-boyfriend asked for a glass of milk to go with the sandwich she had just made for him. She froze a moment, realizing that she had just poured the last of it into her cat’s bowl and Boots was happily lapping it up.

She looked at me, put her finger to her lips, picked up the bowl and poured the milk into a glass whispering, “What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him!” I was just 11 and thought that my Aunt Sharon was a genius.

Three years later we visited my grandmother for Easter. I made a beautiful Easter cake and spent an hour decorating it. I set it on the kitchen table and then the doorbell rang. It was Aunt Sharon arriving with some shopping.

We chatted and walked to the kitchen, where I spied Grandma’s little fox terrier, Jitterbug, on the table nibbling away at a corner of my beautiful cake. I burst into sobs, while my aunt went after the hapless Jitterbug, whose face was covered in frosting.

“Why, you little bastard, come here!” she growled at him and put him outside. She then dried my tears and told me not to worry.

“Look!” she bubbled. “There’s plenty of frosting left. We’ll just cover up where he gnawed the corner away. See?” She proceeded to plop and pat frosting like a dry-waller patching a gaping hole.

“Don’t worry about it, sweetheart! We’ll give this piece to Ronnie—he loves frosting!” My poor Uncle Ron; I guess what he never knew hasn’t hurt him—yet. I was then 14 and knew my Aunt Sharon was a genius.

These three little lady dynamos are all still going strong, being cut of the same cloth. Mom enjoys working as a real estate agent, volunteering in her community, visiting friends, and doting on her grandchildren. Aunt Lorna runs her own business and also dotes on her grandchildren. Aunt Sharon volunteers regularly at a local thrift store and adores her daughter, who has given her granddogs on whom to dote.

They still get together every so often for those Summit Meetings, talking about us, comparing notes, and reminiscing. It’s amazing how much they remember. They are like walking, talking history books. And why shouldn’t they be? After all, when they were youngsters, Roosevelt was in the White House, after leading the Rough Riders up San Juan Hill and completing the Panama Canal! Boy, that Teddy Roosevelt was one helluva president, and yes, ladies, that was an old-age joke! m


Ariel Waterman is probably about to be cut from at least three wills. Send donations to her retirement fund via her editor, Ryan Miller, at

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