••• The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes Fiction
My Aunt Sylvia was far and away the prettiest of my father’s three sisters. She was also the only one with any artistic and intellectual interests.
She didn’t live in Brooklyn as most of my father’s family did but had an apartment in Manhattan and worked downtown as a legal secretary. She went to museums, to the theater, to foreign films, and even to the opera and the ballet. She was also the one sister who hadn’t married. The other three sisters had married a butcher, a postal worker and an electrician. My mother had introduced Aunt Sylvia to a few of my father’s friends. My father was a plumber and they were plumbers, also. I think she went out with one or two of them but, as might be expected, nothing came of it.
When I was growing up, in the Bronx, Aunt Sylvia was very good to me. She brought me books and encouraged me to read. I remember that she’d take me to the Museum of Natural History and, when I was older, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I don’t think there was a Museum of Modern Art way back then; if there had been, she’d have taken me there, too.
Naturally in our family I heard a lot of talk about Aunt Sylvia’s single status. When any of my other aunts visited or when we visited them I heard things like “old maid” and “spinster” and “what’s she waiting for” and “she’s not getting any younger.” On one of our trips to a museum I asked Aunt Sylvia why she wasn’t married. She told me that she was waiting to marry a rich man. I told my mother what Aunt Sylvia had told me, that she was waiting to marry a rich man. “Ha,” said my mother. “She’ll have a long wait.”
As it happened, Aunt Sylvania didn’t have such a long wait. One of the partners at her law firm asked her to dinner. He was an older man, a widower. I guess, being a law firm partner, he was pretty rich. Aunt Sylvia went to the theater and art shows with him. I guess he was cultured, too. On one of Aunt Sylvia’s visits to us in the Bronx, bringing me a new book, my mother of course quizzed her.
“So is this man nice?”
“He’s a perfect gentleman.”
“So how old is he?”
“I’m not sure. He might be fifty.”
“Fifty! He’s old enough to be your father.”
“He’s a very young fifty. He keeps himself very fit.”
“So how long have you been seeing him?”
“About three months now.”
“Three months? So, is it serious?”
“He’s asked me to marry him.”
“So what did you tell him?”
“I’m thinking about it.”
When I went to bed that night I asked my mother about Aunt Sylvia. “Is she going to marry that rich guy?”
“I think so.”
“But you said he’s too old.”
“He’s not that old and old men marry younger women all the time. She’ll have a good life. And maybe she’ll be able to help the family, like paying for you to go to college.”
At this point it appeared that Aunt Sylvia’s plan had worked out; she’d waited and now she was going to marry someone rich. But in this my mother, and everyone else, was to be proven wrong again.
The next family get-together was at the wedding of some cousin out in Long Island. I didn’t want to go, but I was dragged along. All of the aunts and uncles were there, including Aunt Sylvia. We were half-expecting her to have brought her new rich boy friend but she came by herself. When my mother asked, Aunt Sylvia said he had some important business that day. After the ceremony there was eating and then dancing. I saw Aunt Sylvia dancing with some young guy. I asked my mother who that was.
“That’s Freddie,” she said.
“One of your father’s friends. He’s a plumber.”
“Aunt Sylvia seems to like him.” They were dancing very closely together.
“They’re just dancing. But I’ll tell your father to talk to Freddie.”
I don’t know what happened, maybe it was love at first sight, but it was too late. A few weeks later, Aunt Sylvia eloped with Freddie the plumber. After jilting her rich boyfriend she had to leave the law firm but she soon got a job with another one. The family was scandalized. How could she do that? A chance to bring in a rich husband who maybe could have helped everyone. Now it was gone. And for what? To marry Freddie the plumber. For weeks afterward, the aunts and my mother lamented this terrible betrayal, but Aunt Sylvia maintained she never regretted her decision. “I love Freddie,” she told everyone. “He makes me happy.” So love triumphed over everything else.
It might be thought that once she married Freddie Aunt Sylvia tried to change him. She did take him to the theater a few times and to the opera once but he said those weren’t his things. The strange development was that it was Freddie who changed Aunt Sylvia, at least in one way. He was an avid Yankee fan and went to every game he could. He took Aunt Sylvia to a game and she too became a fan. This was fine with me as they took me to a lot of games when I was growing up. When Freddie passed away, at a relatively early age, Aunt Sylvia continued going to games and when she didn’t go she listened to every game on the radio. I suppose love does strange things.
© Martin Green May 2016
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