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

Ida Mae Nowes,  

Nubbins Special Correspondent

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a small town gal. I’ve lived most of my life right here in Nubbins, population 1,800, where I know almost everybody and most everybody knows me. I like it that way – most of the time.

But I’ve been around some too – Washington, D.C.; Chicago, Illinois; Branson, Missouri, to name just a few of the places I’ve visited. But despite all that running around, I had never been to New York City – that is until last month.

Without telling me, my dear friends entered my jingle for Liddy’s Jellies and Jams in a contest, and for heaven’s sake, the thing won. Before we knew what was hitting us, Merl and I were packing for a four-day, three-night trip in the Big Apple.

When my neighbor Martha Crabtree heard about it, she got very excited.

“Oh, Ida Mae, you might meet a big star!” she said, practically panting.

“I doubt that Martha,” I replied. “It’s a really big place.”

“Well, promise me if you meet a big star – like Paul Newman – that you’ll get me his autograph,” she asked earnestly.

“Martha, Paul Newman is dead,” I responded.

“He is? Oh, how disappointing,” she said. “Well, anyone famous will do.”

I promised I would, even though secretly I was rolling my eyes.

The trip was “all expenses paid,” but we all know that nothing in life is free. Turns out Liddy’s products are served in several restaurants in New York City, so we were required to have our photograph taken while eating in each of these establishments. A public relations gentleman from Liddy’s named Cary Beeble would be the photographer. I don’t much like getting my photograph taken, especially in a public restaurant, but that didn’t sound like too high a price for a trip to New York.

And the trip was fabulous. We visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art and took a boat ride out to Ellis Island, waving at the Statue of Liberty along the way. We saw Grand Central Station and took a tour of NBC Studios, visiting the set of a TV show I’d never heard of. We got all gussied up and saw “Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway – what a thrill. Then we squeezed through Times Square with a thousand other people of every shape, size and origin. I think all of Nubbins would have fit in one corner.

I probably wouldn’t have picked the restaurants where we were forced to eat, but they weren’t too bad. Uncle Luigi’s Pancake Palace was a strange mix of Italian and breakfast food, while The Muffin Woman served only fancy coffee and muffins on doilies (with Liddy’s jam on the side, of course). Merl and I endured the awkward photo shoot without too much embarrassment.

The last dinner was at the most upscale restaurant of the three – the Down-home Urban Café. Think country cookin’ in a fancy get-up. Even though we weren’t paying the bill, I wasn’t thrilled at spending my last night in New York eating greens and mashed potatoes on fancy china with white linen tablecloths. I have no idea why the place was packed.

Then Cary Beeble showed up with his camera and made a big fuss about taking our picture. Of course, everyone stopped talking and looked our way. A large woman under a big pile of poppy-red hair came over and asked Cary who we were.

He did what any public relations professional would do. He lied.

“Why this is Kristina Krellata – spokesperson for Liddy’s Jellies and Jams,” he said without batting an eye – or looking in my direction. “I’m sure you’ve seen her on one of our ads.”

“Oh, I think I have,” the lady said, very excited. “Marybeth, come over here. It’s Kristina Krellata!”

Suddenly the table was surrounded by people trying to meet me and chattering away about Liddy’s, as if they had ever heard of it. Cary Beeble was eating it up and Merl just laughed. I felt my blood beginning to boil, but I didn’t feel like spoiling my last night in New York, or worse – having Cary hand me the bill. The sneak had me over a barrel, so I played along, reluctantly, and signed a few autographs “Kristina Krellata” for heaven’s sake.

The hubbub didn’t last long, though. No doubt the crowd moved on to another “celebrity” to harass. Those poor dears – treated like royalty one minute, forgotten the next. Cary slipped out pretty quickly before I could tell him a thing or two about honesty, and Merl and I enjoyed walking hand in hand beneath the city lights before heading home the next morning.

Martha stopped by my house as soon as we got back.

“Did you get me an autograph of anyone famous?” she asked, breathless.

“As a matter of fact, I did, Martha. I got Kristina Krellata’s autograph for you,” I said, handing her a piece of paper. “You may not recognize the name, but she’s a famous actress in commercials.”

“Now that you mention it, I think I do recognize her,” Martha said, getting more and more excited. “Thank you so much, Ida Mae! Let’s see what she wrote: ‘Dear Martha’ … oh, she wrote my name! ‘Be your own star.’ Hmmm … I wonder what that means?”

“I wouldn’t know,” I said. “You’ll have to ask Kristina.”