Three years ago, I was the fun Auntie who got called up and invited to mass, and told to bring bagels. Now…kids! They never call; they don’t write. They don’t need help with homework.
Of course they don’t need help with homework. They know everything!
A look wistful look back, first published in 2006.
FUTURE JOURNALIST GRILLS ANCHORESS
The child of a sibling, who calls me “Auntie,” asked to interview me for a grade-school project on journalism. Between giggles and some eye-rolling I thought the kid still did better than many “big-time professional journalists.” I’ve edited out all of the spelling portions.
Ace Reporter: Okay, so, how old are you?
Auntie: I’m not telling you. How old is your mother?
Ace: Ummm…I don’t know. Auntieeee, you’re supposed to answer the questions!
Auntie: I’m 47.
Ace: Really? That’s what 47 looks like?
Auntie: Keep it up, kid, you’ll never live to see it.
Ace: Okay…what’s your favorite thing to wear?
Auntie: I have a cardigan sweater that’s about 15 years old, and way too big, and it has stains and holes. I love it. I’d marry it, if I could.
Ace: That’s stupid.
Auntie: Hey, you’re supposed to be a reporter, that means you ask the questions and don’t opine on my answers, just report them.
Ace: What’s opine?
Auntie: You expressed an opinion. Never mind, next question.
Ace: What CD is in your player right now?
Auntie: One of Buster’s eclectic compilations – it starts with Marvin Gaye and Don Henley and ends with Johnny Cash, Ricky Scaggs and others singing “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” for about 7 1/2 minutes. It’s great.
Ace: Oh. That sounds, ummm, really great. What’s exlectic?
Auntie: Varied. From many sources.
Ace: Do you think it’s time for a woman to be president?
Auntie: No. I always distrust rhetoric that tells me “it’s time” for anything. Let a woman be elected because she is the best person for the job, not because someone has arbitrarily declared “it’s time.” Next question, hurry, the game is coming on!
Ace: Oh, that’s my next question, what’s your favorite sport?
Auntie: Baseball. It’s the greatest game in the world.
Ace: You don’t like football?
Auntie: Very good, you asked a question in response to my answer, good job! I’m just not a fan of sports with timers and clocks.
Ace: Well, why not?
Auntie: Oh. Belligerence. You’re going to be a great journalist! I don’t like sports with timers because they keep telling me a quarter is 15 minutes, but it lasts hours!
Ace: But baseball takes forever –
Auntie: Shut up, baseball has Derek Jeter. You’re opining again. If you are a journalist and you want to opine, you have to pretend someone else is doing the opining, so you can seem unbiased. For example, if you want to give the opinion that you think football is better than baseball, you might phrase the question, “but some say baseball, without clocks, takes too long.”
Ace: Okay…but some say baseball takes too long.
Auntie: Who says that? Give me a name.
Auntie: Never mind, you’re doing really well. Next question.Ace: Okay, who is your favorite singer?
Auntie: Bryn Terfel. He’s a giant Welshman with a gorgeous basso profundo. He sings opera and he makes my toes curl and my heart go pitter-pat.
Auntie: You’ll understand soon.
Ace: Okay, I got this question from the Actor’s Studio. What sound do you hate?
Auntie: A television left on in an empty room. Drives me nuts.
Ace: Is that why you keep turning off the tv whenever you come over?
Auntie: You people drive me crazy, you’re always leaving the tv on in the living room, when no one is watching, and it’s hard to have a conversation with that drivel seeping into the kitchen.
Ace: So, you find the tv distracting to conversation?
Auntie: Good job – you drew a conclusion and then looked to clarify! Yes, I do. But I also find the tv annoying if it’s left on and no one is talking in the kitchen. I just don’t really like television.
Ace: You’d rather talk to people.
Auntie: If I must. To be honest every time we get together I get stuck sitting next to (name) and I have to listen to her talk about her shoes and her cholestrol.
Ace: She does talk about that a lot.
Auntie: Yeah, the good cholestrol, the bad cholestrol…I’m trying to eat and she’s going on about her arteries and her placque. It’s like trying to eat while Roseanne Roseannadanna is ranting about ear wax and snot-balls hanging from your nose.
Ace: Ewww, Auntie, that’s gross! Who’s Roseanne Roseannadanna?
Auntie: That’s research. Look it up. Try YouTube.
Ace: Okay, my last question is: if you could live in any time of the world, when would you like to live in? Why are you shuddering like that?
Auntie: You ended your sentence with a preposition. As Churchill said, that is something up with which I will not put.
Ace: (silence) Ummm…w-what?
Auntie: Try not to end sentences with prepositions.
Ace: What’s a proposition?
Auntie: Do you remember when you made your first confession and you told me the priest said you should make an Act of Nutrition? We need to work on your hearing…or something.
Ace: Okay, what time would you like to live in…ummm…When would you like to be alive in history?
Auntie: That’s a hard choice. I’d like to have lived during the time Jesus was walking the earth, but I’d also like to have lived in Manhattan during the 1920’s and 30’s and 40’s.
Auntie: Well, because Jesus changed the way people perceived things and that shook the world, and because my Auntie Lily used to tell me such wonderful stories about New York in the early 20th century. Even though everyone was pretty poor, it sounded like life was less complicated. There were problems in the world, and injustices, but people’s values were more in sync with each other’s than they are today, I think, and everyone dressed better. Plus, you know…Babe Ruth. I’d like to sit at Yankee Stadium back then, watching the Sultan of Swat and wearing a sundress and a hat, and little white gloves, that I have to take off while I eat a hotdog. I want a fellow in a bowtie and a boater to whistle at me and say, “oh, you kid!”
Ace: …I don’t know what any of that means.
Auntie: Yeah. Neither do I, really. And somehow, I think that’s probably a shame.