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I was cleaning out the refrigerator this morning and naturally that got me reminiscing–not remembering fridges I have cleaned — things I find in the fridge make me stop and think  “Hmmm.  I wonder how old  I was when I bought this jar of hot English mustard?” I regularly throw out any food that smells or has spawned an entire micro-civilization of another life form, but I tend to hang on to things that don’t ‘go off’ quickly.  You never know when a person of English persuasion might drop by and want to scald  his or her sinuses.  Anyway, my point is, doing mindless jobs like cleaning the fridge is a good time to let the mind wander, and mine was wandering into the distant past.

I started thinking about Aunt Mary’s Club–she only ever referred to it as Club–and the Secret Pal.  I don’t really have much in the way of actual memories of any of it–more like impressions.  Perhaps a little background would help.  In any case, it will help jog my memories.  Aunt Mary was a formidable woman.  All of my dad’s sisters were, in their own way, but she was the eldest of eight children and she wore her rank with authority, though I wouldn’t say she was bossy.  I’m not altogether sure whence this air of dominance came.  I knew her best when I was a child, and as she was a large woman I may simply have reacted to that.  But I don’t think so.  To this day she is still a family icon to those in the family who knew her.

Aunt Mary used to babysit me.  She lived just down the road.  When she baked bread she would ring up and say “Susie, I’ve got some bread coming out of the oven.  If you run down I’ll give you a loaf for your supper.”  I would be out the door like a shot.  The bread never lasted until supper–we gobbled it down while it was still warm, slathered with butter.

Once I started school I would go to Aunt Mary’s after school because my mother worked.  Aunt Mary and Uncle Bill had the first television in the neighborhood, and I was privileged to get to watch it.  She also babysat two of her grandsons–Jimmy, who was one year younger than me, and Johnny, a couple years younger–and every day we would have to sit through  the Kate Smith show, waiting for Howdy Doody to come on.  Oh, what a relief when she began to sing “When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain”–her signature song.  Then it wasHowdy Doody Time!  (I still know all the words…)

Check this out for a wonderful little trip through TV history

And as if that weren’t enough, there were gumdrop cookies, hot out of the oven.

Ah, but I’m getting distracted.  I started out recalling Aunt Mary’s Club.  I must have been too young to be in school at that point.  When I stayed with her during the day I would sometimes have to accompany her to her Club meeting.  There were no other children there, so I was bored rigid.  But I was a well-behaved child (fortunately I outgrew that fairly quickly) and the other ladies always made a fuss over me, which I hated.  I didn’t like the lunches either.  It was all food made by people I didn’t know.

For some reason I have a lingering impression that some of the ladies didn’t like each other very much.  I have no idea whether I was privy to overhearing gossip, or just had well-developed antennae at an early age.  But I’m sure there were some real hostilities in the air, which made the whole Secret Pal thing even more intriguing to a child.  Perhaps they drew names at some point, I don’t really know.  All I know is that they all had a Secret Pal to whom they would give a gift and a flowery card.  And, of course someone would give them one as well.  I recall pondering over the irony–though I didn’t know it was irony then–if someone’s Secret Pal was one of the ladies that she disliked.  Oh, the delicious possibility of it!  If you had a Secret Pal that you didn’t like, would you give her a rotten present?  Or an ugly card?

I have no idea why these ideas occurred to me then, nor why I recall them now.  But it was a pleasant little stroll down Memory Lane.        Thanks for dropping by.         MM