A Memorable Lunch
For years, Sears Roebuck had a big store in the neighboring town. Close enough to bicycle to. The main thing everyone remembers about that store is that at the ground floor entry, there was a popcorn machine. And the smell of that popcorn was enticing beyond measure. As a kid, I so wanted some, but in our family popcorn was for making at home (putting the oil in the Revereware pot, adding the kernels, covering with the lid, and shaking shaking shaking slowly and steadily over the burner), not for buying at the store.
For a few years, my Aunt Mae worked at that Sears store. This was back in the day, as they say, when the catalog would arrive in the mail a couple of times each year (and don't get me started on the Christmas Wishbook) and I'd sneak it from its resting pace in our den up to my bedroom and imagine the possibilities. Aunt Mae worked in the catalog department, which meant that if someone in our area called in an order, chances were excellent that my relative would be the one taking that order.
Our nuclear family got along well enough with the other branches, and always had pleasant get-togethers. But they didn't happen often. We were not the kind of family that was in and out of each others' houses, sleeping over, sharing meals regularly.
One summer when we were having one of those infrequent dinners together, my aunt invited me to ride my bike over to Sears one day and she would take me to lunch. I must have been thirteen or fourteen, old enough to have regularly ridden to the orthodontist who was situated very close to Sears. My mother gave permission and the invitation was accepted.
When the day came, I wore my nicest shorts and shirt and pedaled over. I parked my bike outside that ground floor entrance and found my way to the catalog department, where Aunt Mae welcomed me and introduced me to her colleagues, "This is my niece! She's come to have lunch with me!" as though I were someone important. We went out to the nearby Woolworth's lunch counter. Afterwards, we walked back to Sears where Aunt Mae bought me a small bag of that wonderful popcorn to take home in my bike basket.
It was, by today's standards, a very ordinary occurrence: an aunt and niece going to lunch. But this kind of thing didn't happen in my world nearly sixty years ago. It was a most unusual happening and I don't know what prompted it, but she made me feel so special.