The wobbly ceiling fan tossed Grandmama, Aunt Harriet and Mama’s words around as they sat talking excitedly in our screened-in porch. I watched them from my favorite hiding spot outside, among the bushes. I have heard lots of funny things from grown-ups who sat in our screened-in porch and talked, words I was told not to say and all sorts of stuff about President Truman.
Today Grandmama and Aunt Harriet were here because they just got back from Great Aunt Ida’s funeral in another town in Oklahoma. They came over to tell Mama about all the relatives they saw. They, also, brought some of Great Aunt Ida’s house dresses for Mama. Mama tossed the clothes on a chair and said that she didn’t care a bit about wearing them. Grandmama told her they took them because she was the same size as Great Aunt Ida. That made Mama so mad. She said that she was insulted. She snapped that they should just give the house dresses to a thrift store.
Grandmama and Aunt Harriet let Mama know every detail of their day at the funeral. They had gone back to the house after the service. You’d think Great Aunt Ida and Great Uncle Clement were rich folks that had a bunch of their treasures stolen, according to them. Aunt Harriet was positive that the last time she visited them she admired a pair of beautiful, decorated candlesticks sitting on the sideboard. They were missing. Then, Grandmama piped up to say that she remembered that Great Aunt Ida had crocheted a white tablecloth for their dining room table, which was the best piece of handiwork she had ever seen. The table was bare. The main thing they were upset about was Great Aunt Ida’s jewelry, fit for a queen. Everyone there was looking as hard as could be to find her jewelry, but it it was nowhere in her house. I couldn’t believe that Great Uncle Clement would waste his money buying Great Aunt Ida jewelry, fit for a queen. But, maybe she saved up her own money from teaching piano lessons and bought them herself. At least, her piano was still there!
I got tired of listening to lists of missing stuff so I heaved myself up from the bushes next to the screened-in porch and headed indoors. I got an orange popsicle from the freezer in the kitchen and wandered into the living room where, to my surprise, I saw Mama trying on one of the house dresses. Grandmama and Aunt Harriet had moved to the living room sofa and acted so pleased that Mama had slipped into a blue and white checked dress. It looked kind of cute on her. She seemed to think it was okay and decided to try on more of them. A brown one with orange flowers that danced all over the dress didn’t suit her, but she agreed to get into a yellow house dress with buttons all down the front. I was glad she picked the yellow one because that is my favorite color.
All the while, I was just watching her from the doorway and licking my popsicle. Mama motioned to me to come on in. Grandmama warned me that I’d better not drip my popsicle on our living room sofa like it was as important as Great Aunt Ida’s stuff. I knew our next-door neighbors gave the sofa to us when they moved so it wasn’t new or special.
I liked the buttons down the front of the yellow dress. The were all different, round, square, sparkly. Mama took her time admiring each button as she fastened them. Then, she swirled around and we all thought it was just perfect on her. All of a sudden, she got a troubled look on her face and said that one of the shoulder pads was lumpy and bothered her. Aunt Harriet thought there must be extra buttons tucked in the shoulder pad. Grandmama got right up and felt the shoulder pad, then insisted on removing it. I brought scissors to her and she snipped it off. We were all expecting to see more buttons spill out. Instead, sewn into the shoulder pad lay Great Aunt Ida’s missing jewelry. Everyone screamed as Grandmama held them in her hands. Aunt Harriet jumped up and down and twirled around like Mama had just done. She started laughing, yelling that all the other relatives were probably still searching every corner of the house. And our family had her missing jewelry.
Great Aunt Ida and Great Uncle Clement never had children and Aunt Harriet remembered hearing Great Uncle Clement say that he didn’t care a hoot about the jewelry. She, then, picked up a diamond brooch and held it up to her blouse. Mama took pearls and fastened them around her neck. But, Grandmama put a stop to all this saying that she never thought her own daughters would be so greedy, telling them that these belonged to Great Uncle Clement, no matter what he might have said. I noticed that she had removed a diamond ring before she gave them her little lecture.
The shoulder pad was lumpy again as they placed all the jewelry back. Mama said that Great Aunt Ida had thought up the perfect hiding place. Aunt Harriet got the maddest look on her face and said it was a dumb place to hide her jewelry because the dresses might have ended up at a thrift shop. Grandmama snapped back that they knew that they had to do the right thing and return the jewelry. It didn’t surprise me that she said that because she always did the right thing.
The next morning Grandmama, Mama I piled into Aunt Harriet’s Dodge and drove down the dusty road to Great Uncle Clement's home. Mama kept the yellow dress. Great Uncle Clement was surprised to see us and even more surprised to see what we brought back to him. He invited us in and were we ever startled because the dining room table was all dressed up with the beautiful white, crocheted tablecloth. Aunt Harriet’s eyes darted to the sideboard where the decorative candlesticks stood, as always. Great Uncle Clement said he took them to a neighbor’s home for safe-keeping because he knew all the relatives who came to his house would scramble around, making a big fuss by fighting over them.
He had known what Great Aunt Ida had done with the jewelry and secretly hoped the dress with the lumpy shoulder pad would end up at a thrift shop. He didn’t give a hoot about jewelry and thought that they would give an unsuspecting shopper a big thrill. In the end, we were the ones who got the big thrill. Like Grandmama, we all thought that Great Uncle Clement did the right thing.