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Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
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Are there whatnots in heaven?
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Friday, March 15, 2013

By CHARLES BOOTHE -

What do you do with a fiery red-head who is about as different from the rest of her siblings as a person can be?

That was an ongoing question in my family because Aunt Ruby was, as they say, a piece of work.

Oh, she was raised just like the rest of her 10 siblings, six girls and four boys, but she just didn't turn out anywhere near the same. In looks, disposition and lifestyle, you would have never, ever, thought she was even related to most of her family.

She was tall, full-figured and buxomly, and quite flamboyant. She had long red hair, usually partially covered by a small hat with a bill, a quick smile and was always the center of attention with her good looks and boisterously pleasant personality.

Of course, much to consternation of her sisters, she was the only one who didn't seem to be the least bit religious.

I have told the Easter Sunday story about her. That was the only time she went to church because it gave her an excuse to buy a new dress. But on that Sunday as she was leaving for church, she closed her new red dress in the door, which she had inadvertently locked.

Since her quiet, and quite henpecked, husband, Uncle Boyd, was working the daylight shift at the Celanese plant and her boys had already left, she had to stand there until church was over to be freed from her predicament.

The first time I remember realizing Aunt Ruby was, well, a bit different was over something she collected.

The preacher had told my mother he wanted to pay a visit to Aunt Ruby after the service that Sunday, and my mother took me with her to let Aunt Ruby know.

It wasn't long before the trouble started.

Aunt Ruby collected whatnots. But not just any whatnots.

She had several curios cabinets, all full of whatnots. She also had them setting around the house, on her piano, coffee table and on about any other available space.

I'm talking about hundreds of whatnots.

There were salt and pepper shakers, ash trays, cigarette lighters, figurines and unidentified objects, and they all had one thing in common -- they were naughty.

At that time, I didn't really understand why they were naughty since I had never paid any attention to them, and I wasn't quite old enough to understand what naughty meant.

But I did pay attention after that incident.

Almost every one of Aunt Ruby's whatnots were, as my mother said, "dirty-minded," as in things of a sexual nature.

On that day, my mother was telling Aunt Ruby she needed to put them away or cover them up since the preacher was coming.

Of course, Aunt Ruby just laughed, saying the preacher may be a preacher, but he had a sense of humor, too.

Basically, she said that if got offended, well, that's just too bad because she was who she was and wasn't going to pretend to be someone she wasn't.

Yep, that was Aunt Ruby. Life of the party. Always the same, always enjoying herself.

I don't know for sure, but I think my mother tried to talk the preacher out of the visit, especially considering how much Aunt Ruby liked playing the piano, dancing and singing the "Old Maid" song, which was full of risque lines about an old maid and a sailor.

But after church that day, I heard that the preacher was indeed going to pay Aunt Ruby a visit.

That was not surprising to me because his attitude was to go where the sinners were, not always preaching to the choir.

I had heard him say just as much in his sermons.

So he went into the house of a sinner, who never denied she was a sinner, and I'm not sure she ever cared. As I learned when I was older, she saw herself as a good person, and if she could make people laugh and feel good about themselves, she was serving a great purpose in life.

After that visit, not much else was said about it.

But I did overhear my mother and Aunt Ebb talking about what had happened in very whispered voices.

I learned that, to their surprise, the preacher had said all went well, and he liked Aunt Ruby very much.

And I always wondered if he was referring to Aunt Ruby in one of his sermons after the visit when he said: "God makes all kinds of people, and all have a different purpose. It is up to Him to pass judgment, not us."

Maybe Aunt Ruby is in heaven even now, singing about the old maid and flatfooting as she sings to the delight of all gathered around.

 
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