Auntie Mae’s Various Ramblings on Life in a Small Town

Ida Mae Nowes

Nubbins Special Correspondent 

I’ve had so much change in my life in the past year – what with getting married, living part time in Petersburg, and my cat dying – I was ready for a breather. That’s what retirement is all about, right?

Well, you can forget that. I don’t think “breathers” actually exist – especially for retired people. They’re the busiest people I know! There’s always somebody who wants you to volunteer for something or chores that have to be done. 

For instance, two days after my beloved cat Succotash passed away, my 15-year-old asparagus-colored car (affectionately referred to by my friends as “Gus”) finally bit the dust. I knew it was coming, but I was hoping to squeeze in a few more miles. But no, the time had come, and instead of taking that “breather” I was hoping for, I ended up car shopping.

Some people love car shopping, but I am not one of those wackos. I just wanted a nice reliable car like the one that had served me so well for 15 years. Unfortunately, they don’t make asparagus-colored, great-gas-mileage cars any more. Why, I don’t know. The car shopping was almost as bad as a root canal, but I got through it and eventually ended up with a nice little sedan I would call tan, but is actually referred to in the automobile world as “champagne.”

All this happened so quickly that I didn’t have time to tell any of my friends I was buying a new car. So, all of a sudden I found myself driving around Nubbins in a snazzy, champagne-colored car that nobody recognized. People who don’t live in a small town don’t realize what a big deal this is. 

Everybody in Nubbins knew Gus and therefore knew every single place I went in my car. Frankly, it could get exasperating. But now – at least for the moment – I was completely unknown in the car I found myself calling “Bubbles.” I decided to take advantage of that fact and enjoy my new-found anonymity. I put on my sunglasses for effect.

I drove down Sycamore Road and saw Bessie Lou-Lou Tuten Tador in the parking lot of the church. She glanced at my car then turned back to her own. I was ecstatic! If she had recognized me, she probably would have flagged me down and asked me to be on the Buildings and Grounds Committee.

On Maple Street I passed my young neighbor Johnny Mac, walking his dog, Mae. Johnny Mac always imagines that everyone new to Nubbins is a spy, and just for fun I didn’t look his way as I drove by. I surprised myself by hoping he was imagining the driver of this unknown, champagne-colored car was a spy.

What a silly thing to think, I said to myself, as I continued to meander through my little town pretending to be someone other than Ida Mae. Finally, I’d had enough and headed for home. That took me down Dogwood Lane past my friend Pepper’s house. 

As I approached the house, I saw an unfamiliar blue car idling in the driveway. It appeared that a man and a woman in the front seat were embracing, but of course it was hard to tell. Just as I passed by, I saw Pepper get out of the passenger side. Oh, dear! I thought. I knew the car wasn’t her husband’s, so who was that in the front seat? What exactly had I witnessed? 

Oh, for heaven’s sake, I thought, this is how rumors start. Maybe anonymity and stealth weren’t so great after all. As I pulled into my driveway, I saw Johnny Mac’s mother, LuAnn, in the yard. I stopped and rolled down to the window.

“What do you think of my new car, LuAnn?” I asked.

“Oh, it’s beautiful!” she said, walking over to take a look. “Johnny Mac told me you got a new car. I like it!”

“What?!” I asked. “How did he know?”

“He just got home from a walk and said he saw you driving by in a new car. He figured since Gus was so old you had bought a new one.”

Well, how do you like that? I guess I’m not as stealthy as I thought. I drove into my carport and parked. Serves me right, anyway, driving around spying on people. I was trying very hard not to imagine the worst about what I’d seen at Pepper’s house, but I was having a hard time. This undercover stuff was for the birds.

An hour later my phone rang. As soon as I answered, my friend Roberta said, “I heard you got a new car. Can I come over and see it?”

Well, I guess it’s back to everybody knowing what I’m doing. Of course, that wasn’t all bad.

“Sure, come on over and meet Bubbles,” I said.