I used to love it when we had company coming! If there were lots of people there who stayed overnight, I got to sleep on either the ironing board or the sewing machine.
Mother, Lena, Cheryl and I would clean and "redecorate" for weeks in advance. If we had the time and money, Mother would buy cretonne fabric and we would make new slipcovers for the couch and chairs.
We had gotten a letter from Aunt Elsie that she was coming for a visit. Oh, how we loved to see her - and Aunt Nettie. This particular time, the slipcovers were almost new, so all we had to do was wash them. We had the house stripped of curtains, slipcovers, scarves, throw rugs, tablecloths and bedspreads. Everything was clean and we planned to put all the "stripped" articles back where they belonged very early the next morning before our company got there. Late the night before the BIG day, old Spot started barking up a storm! Mother opened the door to take a look and there stood Elsie - a day early! The only thing to do was to invite her in and Mother really hated for her to see the house in that condition, so she spirited Elsie back out onto the porch and gave us a look that said, "Get things in order, pronto!"
The girls and I worked like beavers putting everything in place and, about 45 minutes later, Lena gave Mother a look that said, "Mission accomplished!" and Mother calmly invited Elsie in the house. None of us ever said a word about it.
I loved to play tricks on Elsie because she was so fun-loving and young-at-heart. Once, she was to come for a visit on the day Junior and Mother went rattlesnake hunting in the chest of drawers.* We had the snake strung up on the clothesline and I got the idea that I would scare Elsie with it. I tied it to a piece of fishing line and put the snake in the bushes across the path to our house. I got behind a big rock on the opposite side next to the creek. Before long, here came Elsie and Anna Jo. (Mother called her "Jack" for some reason, and she was so stuck up, she wouldn't stay with us when they came. We didn't care because we didn't like her anyway.) Just as they got close to the fishing line, I started slowly reeling the line up. It actually looked like the snake was crawling. Poor Elsie let out a yell that would strip the whitewash off the toilet, hiked up her dress and started running like crazy.
Even though she was a trim woman, Elsie always wore a girdle. Once, after she went to sleep, I pinned a big bunch of dried corn silk in her girdle. She must have gotten dressed before it got completely light out because she had the girdle pulled all the way up before she realized that something was "biting" her. She was jumping and screaming and was convinced that something was "eating her alive." When she realized what I had done, she laughed and laughed.
Occasionally, Mother's "side" of the family visited, but usually just came for the day. We always enjoyed watching Mother and her brothers looking at the pictures. They would pretend that they were stealing this picture or that one and Mother would jokingly threaten them. My main memory of their visits is that the children had to wait to eat until the grown-ups finished eating. It was so hard to wait and they would just keep sitting there talking and eating. Mother made a blackberry cake with white fluffy icing that I still remember to this day. I wish I had the recipe.
When Nettie and Pope came, we always sang together and told stories until very late at night. Mother would let us stay up as long as we could stay awake. Daddy always told the story of the car ride and Herschel's cap.**
Nick and June brought me a pretty white dress when I was about ten years old and I still remember that day so clearly. They had taken Mother to the store and they came back with some "5th Avenue" candy bars. Being a kid, I grabbed one as soon as they hit the table. Mother jerked it out of my hand and said I had to wait until after supper.
I was mortified and I remember sitting on the back step with my head in my lap and crying my heart out. All at once, a hand appeared in my lap and dropped a candy bar in it. It was Aunt June. She said, "Here, honey, this is just for you!" I have always loved her for that.
*Read my poem about the rattlesnake here.
**My poem about Hershel's Cap is here.