Growing up Elvis

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My cousins surprised my Great Aunt Able with a birthday party on Saturday night. It was held in an American Legion hall, one of those delightful little faux-wood paneled rooms that remind me of my childhood growing up in the 80s with remnant 70s decor. The 70s have such a Kubrick glow.

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I wanted to take a photo of every single person at the bar. They all look like they had such stories to tell. One man said that he saw me on television and I can only imagine that I had a bullhorn in my hand so I ducked my head and slipped past him on my way to the bathroom.

Ladies

We all converged in a back room; table after table of family members, even one whom I've chosen to estrange myself after some drama-familia episodes. It's inconsequential considering that this was a celebration for the closest thing we have to a matriarch in our family ever since the death of my grandmother four years ago.

Surprise!

My Aunt Able has fire-engine red hair and is one of the most straight-forward people I know. She could have been Popeye in another life. Her husband nicknamed her "Red" early on, both for her hair color and her temper. When my mother left the country for the big city, she stayed with Great Aunt Able in her small south city home and caught the bus to the five-and-dime where she worked as a cashier. She soon got an apartment of her own but she never very far from Great Aunt Able, with whom she and the rest of my aunts and uncles have regarded as a backup parent. I've always admired how what you saw is what you got with my grandma, Aunt Able's oldest sister, and Aunt Able herself. The pair were close and made frequent pilgrimages to their own little Mecca, Graceland, as lifelong Elvis devotees, and took pictures of the same things every visit. I know those photo albums by heart: 70s-yellow Polaroids and snapshots of them standing in front of the gates with my younger aunts; Able and Grandma in front of Elvis's grave; Able and Grandma at the museum, in Elvis's living room, with various Elvis impersonators. Aunt Able shared my Grandma's obsession with Elvis, though I don't think it went to the extent where the Elvis photos in her home outnumbered the photos of her grandkids, as they did in Grandma's house. Still, when grandma died, Able inherited the bulk of Grandma's Elvis memorabilia, including the gigantic velvet Elvis painting which Grandma hung so it could be seen from the toilet with the door open.

Um, ok, are you seriously still taking photos?


An Elvis impersonator surprised her; he was fantastic and performed all the hits and I shocked myself when I did some impromptu background vocals with my mom on "In the Ghetto."

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Aunt Able hasn't had the easiest life; she lost her husband and her sister irelatively close together. I remember all of my cousins and I circled around her as they lowered Grandma into the ground. She was crying and we told her that she didn't have time to cry; she just inherited 30-some-odd grandchildren. She laughed.

I love her expression

It's weird. When I was young the only thing I wanted to do was go out with my friends and turn 21 so I could get into the clubs and get my own car and every other way to get away from my family but now all I want to do is be with my family. Even the ones who did me wrong; they still look like me and they still have known me since I had pigtails down to my calves and wore little cowboy boots with all my skirts.

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So we celebrated Aunt Able's birthday. These events with the old guard are few and far between anymore and I was glad that we went.

Aunt Able

Some shots I love (click to enlarge):

The pictorial representation of their relationship Elvis8

My granny would be proud Disbelief

Full photo set here.

34 Comments

There's something so sweet and charming about that whole story! Thank you for sharing the glimpse into your family and also, the fabulous photos.

We have an American Legion hall in my town, and it looks exactly like the one in your pictures. I love some faux wood wall paneling.

Dana,

You have such a wonderful family.

I know it was an earlier post, but I really appreciated your point of view on Gun Control in the last Momversation. I got my CCW about 2 years ago, and it was an excellent course!

It seems like conservatives are far a few between in the blogosphere, and I was super delighted to find you, a mother and conservative! Keep fighting the good fight!

-Kerith

I loved this story. Thanks for sharing!!

As I grow older I realize how important family really is, even the people that we don't connect with. They're a part of us, part of our history, and contribute to who we become.

Your aunt looks like the life of the party(great name!). I hope that she enjoyed the party. She's a lucky woman to be surrounded by her loved ones on her birthday.

You ain't nothin' but a houndog...

What a beautiful story! It sounds like your aunt was aptly named. Enjoyed your personal reflections as well. There is something very "wood paneled" and warm about the 70s. Thanks for sharing!


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