Sometime shortly after J.Hooligan was born, I made a comment, mostly in jest, that I participated in celebrations for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Grandparents Day — but there was no Aunt Day. My sister took my complaint seriously and created, just for me, Aunt Nancy Day.
Traditionally, Aunt Nancy Day is celebrated sometime in November — principally because that was the earliest convenient time to celebrate after Diamondqueen first came up with the idea. It consisted of small gifts and dinner at a local fondue restaurant for Diamondqueen, our mother, and me. TPM stayed home to babysit J.Hooligan. That year I didn’t object to J.’s absence, since he was just a baby. In theory, though, celebrating Aunt Nancy Day makes no sense without the presence of a niece or nephew at the festivities.
Eventually, when he was older, J. joined us at dinner, and then S.Hooligan as well. The observation of Aunt Nancy Day kind of floats, depending on circumstances. This year, the most opportune time for everyone was this past Saturday afternoon.
The celebration actually started last month, when I was shopping for a new fall/winter purse. I’m choosy about purses because I want them to be roomy and have certain features in the way of outside pockets that close and zippered compartments. Diamondqueen started sending me recommendations from the QVC site. I was a little surprised; but then, Diamondqueen does love purses (she’s a Dooney & Bourke addict).
I gladly reviewed every suggestion she made, and looked at all the selections on the site, but I was dubious. I’m wary of buying a purse I haven’t examined thoroughly for myself (although Diamondqueen pointed out that you can return merchandise to QVC if you don’t like it). Also, I’m a tightwad about something like a purse. It’s functional. It gets beat up and dirty. I really don’t like spending a chunk of change. More often than not, I’ve found perfectly satisfactory purses at bargain emporiums like Wal-Mart. This season, though, I hadn’t located anything I liked.
Then one Saturday the Hooligans, Mom, and I were lunching at Don Pablos. There was a T.J. Maxx nearby. “Let’s check out the purses as long as we’re here,” Diamondqueen suggested.
There were a lot of good options. The one I settled on initially was a corduroy version of the khaki purse I’d carried all summer. It was only $9 plus tax. When I said I was heading to the check-out, Diamondqueen snatched it from me with a snarl. She’d intended to buy whatever purse I chose as my Aunt Nancy Day present and had hoped to prod me toward a nicer selection.
Since I knew she really did want to get me an upgraded purse, I relinquished the corduroy bag and took another look around. There were several that had caught my eye, but at last I chose a green Stone Mountain bag of buttery leather that had all the pockets and compartments I wanted, and seemed just large enough to accommodate my wallet and camera. And it was a modest price, so I wouldn’t feel too bad if it took a beating (yet it was expensive enough that Diamondqueen felt she was giving me a decent purse, a real step up from my $12 bargain specials). She paid for it and passed the T.J. Maxx sack to me. I wouldn’t have to wait for Aunt Nancy Day to begin using my new purse.
So, a couple of weeks later, on Saturday, we celebrated the meal portion of the holiday. First, though, there were additional gifts. J. and S.Hooligan had each colored a computer-generated card for me. S. had colored a Dora the Explorer design, while J. had labored over a SpongeBob card. He had suffered for his art, going into conniptions each time he colored outside the lines, starting over several times. He apologized for the one he did give me because there was the slightest fleck of blue outside the black outline of one of SpongeBob’s pupils. I tried to tell him I’d rather have a flawed card that he hadn’t suffered to make than a perfect card that had caused him so much anguish. Diamondqueen pointed out she’d made the same speech to him the night before. J.Hooligan later told me he’d had a bad night’s sleep — he’d gotten too keyed up over his failures to color the perfect card.
(I think J.Hooligan also questioned the reason and cause for all his angst. He asked loudly in exasperation, “Is this even a real holiday?”)
I also received a new trash container for General Johnny, my new Corolla, from the kids. And from Mom and her dog Rusty, I received another feature for Johnny: a visor holder for my CDs. (I’ve never understood why Mom and Rusty give me presents for Aunt Nancy’s Day. I always point out that, if anything, Rusty is my brother. My mother finally put the matter to rest yesterday after my annual protestations by saying she just likes an opportunity to give a gift.)
For our celebratory meal I chose Buca di Beppo, down in Cincinnati at the Rookwood Commons. I’d introduced Mom and the Hooligans to it recently, and Mom and Diamondqueen loved it. The Hooligan kids were indifferent, but they never really eat anything anyway, so Diamondqueen stored a stash of Halloween candy in her purse for this visit. (TPM declined to accompany us, although he seemed sorry later when he heard about the good bread we had.)
We were seated in one of the larger back rooms, where the lights were dimmer and racks of wine bottles covered the ceiling. I had a glass of Chianti with my meal and tried the pesto salmon, which was terribly rich and wonderful. Mom had the eggplant, and Diamondqueen the meatball sandwich. She also ordered the kids a pepperoni pizza, which J.Hooligan ignored. S.Hooligan ate a few slices of the pepperoni off the pizza.
On our first visit, we’d ordered a slice of cheesecake and a chocolate cannoli to share. Mom and Diamondqueen both said they’d been fantasizing about that cheesecake ever since. This time, when our waiter asked about dessert, Shannon told him we wanted cheesecake and cannoli, and we’d be sharing.
Our mouths hung open when the waiter set down an enormous wedge of cheesecake and three cannolis elegantly mired Sambuca fudge sauce. He’d misunderstood and tripled our intended order. By the time we left the restaurant, we were nearly bilious with our overindulgence in cheesecake and hazelnuts and ricotta and ground candied pistachios and fudge sauce as thick as caulk.
We made a brief stop at a local antique mall, where I wanted to check out their selection of Infant of Prague statues in a downstairs Catholic shop. The Hooligan kids misbehaved outrageously, and J.Hooligan talked himself into a stint of hard labor as punishment.
“Are you doing okay?” the older, nun-like keeper of the statues asked as I was browsing. She meant was I finding what I was looking for and wasn’t, I assume, commenting on the numerous times I’d shrieked “Shut up!!!!” at the Hooligans and muttered dire warnings.
“Yes, I’m fine,” I replied politely. But I couldn’t resist adding, “Except for those kids. We need to lock them up somewhere.”
She laughed in a gentle, beatific way and said, “Actually, they’re being very good.” I couldn’t believe my ears. She was too saintly to lie, so I guess she just believed you had to say something good or nothing at all. Obviously the woman is holier than I’ll ever be, no matter how many Infant of Prague statues I accumulate.
J.Hooligan, despite racking up considerable punishments already, bitched and whined whenever I slowed down to look over something that caught my interest on our way to the checkout. “It’s my Aunt Nancy Day celebration,” I told him pointedly.
“No, it’s not,” J. retorted. “I declare Aunt Nancy Day over! It’s stopping now!”
He was too late. I’d already had a wonderful time, and there was nothing in his eight-year-old power that could revoke that.