"Quick, get this couch out the window!" she yelled.
Cameron and Gerald opened the large glass widow doors that let to a petit balcony and heaved the couch up over the edge. I checked below first, to make sure nobody would get hurt.
This is spring cleaning with Aunt Gemmima. Not an event you wanted to miss. Last year, we threw her mattress out the window. The year before that, it was an ancient coffee table that was missing a leg. It was missing a lot more than that after it landed. Eleven stories is a long way to fall, even for a sturdy old coffee table.
Aunt Gemmima lives in a quiet apartment building mostly populated by old people pushing walkers. The rules are that there can be no pets except specially registered hypoallergenic dogs, or Seeing Eye dogs. According to the stories she tells, Aunt Gemmima has never been one to follow rules. She shares her little blue flower print apparent with between twelve and forty-two cats. She always has an extra kitten or two for a loving home and once a year her brother comes and takes the surplus of kittens to an animal shelter to be adopted. We will never get a kitten because my dad can’t abide them. But I get my cat fix whenever I go to visit her.
There are cats and cat things everywhere in her apartment. Portraits of the cats she has owned through the years decorate the walls. When you sit down to have tea from tea cups with cats on them there will unavoidably be a cat purring on your lap in the first few seconds. Little ceramic cats with flowers on them line the heat register and she has all the beanie baby cats ever created—including the wild ones.
But, despite what you might think, there is more to my aunt then just cats. She’s a writer and a poet and she taught high school for forty-three years.
Nobody dresses like Aunt Gemmima does. She wears bright floral sundresses all summer long and in the winter she has these amazing dark velvet dresses with high waists and long flowy sleeves. They go down to the ground and make her look like an elegant beauty of the night from some time long past. Terry—that’s my little brother—says that she looks like a vampire in them, but vampires are evil and Aunt Gemmima is one of the nicest ladies I know.
She always visits my family at Easter time. She’s very religious, so we always go to church, but she has nothing against Easter egg hunts, unlike Uncle Tom, her brother. She always brings a whole lot of marshmallow peeps which she hides all over the house and in the yard. I don’t know how she gets on to the roof or up in the trees, but somehow she hides them everywhere.
Mom says it is not healthy to eat marshmallow peeps that have been sitting in a crook in a tree, but Aunt Gemmima says that a little bit of clean dirt is good for digestion. My suspicion is that it does no harm and it does no good but I never like to get involved in the arguments mom and Aunt Gemmima have. They’re sisters, see. I don’t have a sister, but I’ve got brothers, so I have lots of experience with arguing.
Once, Aunt Gemmima hid a marshmallow peep inside the piano. Nobody found it and she forgot where it was. George was livid when he came across it months later, all goopy and melted and glumping the strings together. It took hours for him to clean and he insisted that we get the piano tuned afterwards.
Aunt Gemmima came and helped look after us when mom was sick with Mono. That’s when I found out that not only is she a great storyteller, but she is also marvellous at reading aloud. It was late, and Terry was all bouncy and wouldn’t fall asleep, so Aunt Gemmima said she’d read him a story. All of us kids were on the bed in the blink of a cat’s eye. She made the story come alive and a whole lot more exciting than it normally would be. I can still remember all the funny voices the characters talked in. After that, we made her read aloud all of our favourite stories to us. I always hear her voices in my head when I read them now.
Well, nap time is over so I’d better stop writing now and get back spring cleaning. Aunt Gemmima says that the next project we’re tackling is the stove. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, Aunt Gemmima takes two naps every day. One in the morning and one in the afternoon. She calls them her catnaps. And when you visit her, everybody observes those few moments of quiet.