Aunt Dorothy Knows Best
by Cathy Graham
It all started when I came downstairs one Saturday morning to find my kitchen occupied.
“Good morning, Adele,” a sing song voice chirped.
“How did you get in here?” I cried.
I rubbed my morning eyes and took a good look. She looked familiar with her bright red lipstick and short brown hair swept up in tight curls away from her forehead. Her ruffled apron covered her green flowered dress and she had pearls around her neck. Pearls? Who wore pearls unless they were going out? It couldn’t be. I rushed over and looked at the 1950’s cookbook I had just bought at the used book store. I wasn’t much of a cook but I couldn’t resist old books. The title “Aunt Dorothy’s Knows Best” was still there but the picture was gone. That must mean…..
“You’re the woman on the cover of this cookbook!”
“Now, Adele. Let Aunt Dorothy make you a nice pancake breakfast.”
“I don’t eat breakfast,” I said. “Only coffee.”
“But breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I don’t think you’ve been reading my book, have you?” Her perfectly manicured brows puckered together.
“Of course. I tested each recipe. I wouldn’t allow my picture on the cover if each recipe wasn’t wholesome and delicious.” She poured batter into the frying pan and it sizzled.
“Sit down dear and I’ll serve you. I see you don’t have any real maple syrup so this honey will have to do. I’ll go to the market later. Your larder is practically empty except for something called tofu. It looks disgusting.” Dorothy made a face as she lay out my plate and cutlery on the round kitchen table. She looked more at home in my kitchen than I did. My idea of cooking was to defrost a frozen dinner in the microwave.
“Aren’t those high heels uncomfortable?” I asked looking down at her pointed green shoes adorned with red bows that matched her lipstick shade perfectly.
“A woman has to look her best at all times. How else can we keep our husbands happy?” Aunt Dorothy licked the tips of her fingers and smoothed her curls which were lacquered to her head like a helmet.
“You don’t really believe that nonsense, do you?” I asked taking a bite of the pancake which was delicious.
“That must be why there’s no man in your life,” Dorothy said. She reached for the cookbook and flipped through the pages. “Here’s a section you should read about how to get a husband.”
“I don’t want a husband,” I said pushing the book away. “I’m happy being single.”
“But don’t you want children?” She looked at me in disbelief.
“No, I don’t,” I said. “Mmmm, good pancakes by the way. Aren’t you going to join me?”
“I can’t,” Dorothy replied lifting a pail out from under the sink and filling it with soap and hot water.
“There’s too much to do.”
“But it’s Saturday morning. I want to relax and read my novel.” I pleaded.
“Go ahead and put your feet up, Dear. You won’t even know I’m here.” She wrestled a mop out of my cluttered broom closet. A bulging plastic bag of cans and plastic containers clattered onto the floor. “My word. You are a packrat, aren’t you?” she laughed. “No worry. I’ll throw these out with the rest of the trash.”
“I’m recycling them.” I said and saw her puzzled look. “You don’t need to do this.” I clenched my lips together in a tight line.
“A working girl like you needs some help, Dear,” Aunt Dorothy said plunging the mop into the sudsy water and attacking the kitchen floor. I felt sorry for the mop.
“I don’t need your help.”
“After this I’ll vacuum the house. Do you have some newspapers and vinegar? Your windows look like they could use a good scrub.” She clucked her tongue disapprovingly.
“My windows are just fine. Don’t worry about it,” I said.
“But someone’s got to worry about it, Dear. This house is going to rack and ruin. Would you like me to paint the kitchen? It’s no trouble.”
“My house is just fine. I like it this way.” I tried to keep the anger out of my voice but didn’t succeed.
“That temper of yours is most unattractive, Dear. No man is going to like a wife with a temper like that.”
“I already told you. I have no intention of getting married. Don’t you even listen?”
“Aunt Dorothy knows best, Dear. I know a wonderful man who would be just perfect for you. And the best part is that he’s a lawyer so he would be a good provider. You could quit your work and concentrate on being a good wife and mother.”
“Okay, that does it,” I said getting up from the table and nearly slipping.
“Watch the wet floor, Dear,” Aunt Dorothy warned.
“Get out of my kitchen now! Get out of my life!” I screamed.
“Is that any way to talk to your Aunt Dorothy who only wants what’s best for you?” Aunt Dorothy’s perfect red lips twitched and her eyes widened so much I was sure her fake eyelashes would fall out.
I snatched the book off the counter and wrenched the cover off. I bent it between my hands trying to rip it apart. No luck. I grabbed a pair of scissors and cut it into pieces. As I saw the cardboard pieces fall to the floor, I saw Dorothy break apart like a distorted satellite image. She screamed in protest but luckily I couldn’t hear her anymore.
I opened the kitchen door and flung the cookbook with all my strength. It landed with a satisfying clunk in the tin garbage can.
“And you don’t think I’m good at housecleaning. Take that, Aunt Dorothy! ”