Iowa Writes

DON E. PERKINS
My Aunt Maggie


If my Aunt Maggie is out in the chicken coop gathering eggs, when we stop for a visit, I might see her sprint for the house. Or if she is in her garden picking green beans, I see her briefly when she hurries to get out of sight. And that's usually all I ever see of her. 

It's different if Aunt Maggie sees us coming. I'm sure she scrambles for hiding the moment she spots our car's dust trail on the rock road. Those times I don't see her at all.
Uncle Johnny usually tells us, “Oh, Maggie just washed her hair and thinks it looks a mess." Or he says, “She's been cleaning out the chicken coop and she's all dirty." My parents appear to accept his excuses.

If my Aunt Maggie is out in the chicken coop gathering eggs, when we stop for a visit, I might see her sprint for the house. Or if she is in her garden picking green beans, I see her briefly when she hurries to get out of sight. And that's usually all I ever see of her. 

It's different if Aunt Maggie sees us coming. I'm sure she scrambles for hiding the moment she spots our car's dust trail on the rock road. Those times I don't see her at all.
Uncle Johnny usually tells us, “Oh, Maggie just washed her hair and thinks it looks a mess." Or he says, “She's been cleaning out the chicken coop and she's all dirty." My parents appear to accept his excuses. 

During our visit Aunt Maggie stays in the bedroom, but I'm sure she listens at the door so she won't miss anything. Later Mom tells me, “Maggie hides because she's just a shy country girl. What's more, she doesn't have decent clothes and Johnny refuses to buy her anything nice. When we leave Mom gives him a pair of light blue slacks, two pair of knee high stockings, and two sweaters.

“These might fit Maggie and I don't need them. Maybe she can use them."

The next time we stop at the farm Maggie must have seen us coming. I see nothing of her. We sit and talk in the living room, but just before we leave Mom faces the bedroom door and says, “ I notice Maggie's vegetable garden looks especially nice this year. Not a weed anywhere. And her kitchen is so clean I wouldn't hesitate to eat right off the floor. A weed-free garden and a spotless kitchen are two things Aunt Maggie cherishes most.

On the way home Mom says, “All Maggie needs is for people to appreciate what she does. Her parents never praised her for anything and I've seen her own brothers make fun of her."

When Maggie gains some self-confidence Mom thinks she'll stop hiding. She intends to have a serious talk with Uncle Johnny. She thinks he should praise her every chance he gets. 

On our next visit Mom says to her brother, “Johnny, I'd like to see the garden." When they are outside Mom begins. “Now listen here. You've got to stop taking Maggie for granted. You must start complimenting her for all the good things she does around here. You know very well you couldn't run this farm without her."

She goes at him for about ten minutes. Before they go inside she says, “I mean it, you get busy doing what I told you." He walks with his head down looking like a youngster whose mother has reprimanded him. 

On our next visit Uncle Johnny takes Dad and me out to the barn to show us the calf born that morning. Mom stays in the house, so I figure she has something in mind. The Holstein calf is eagerly taking his dinner. Momma Cow looks at us as though saying, "Well, what do you think? Did I do good or what?"

Dad and Uncle Johnny discuss the weather and corn prices. Now they drift into politics. Dad's a solid Republican and Uncle Johnny is a fiery Democrat and they're close to an argument when Dad decides, “We all better go in now."

Mom is drinking a cup of tea. She laughs at something someone next to her just said. The other lady also holds a teacup. She looks at me and says, “Well Donnie, what do you think of our new calf?" I realize this lady wearing the pale blue slacks is my Aunt Maggie and she's not hiding.

During the drive home Dad shakes his head in amazement and asks Mom, “How in the world did you do that?"

“Oh, it was simple. I just stood in front of her bedroom door and said 'Maggie, you'd better get out here and make me a cup of tea or else I'll do it myself and probably dirty up your kitchen so badly it'll take you a month to get it clean.'"

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

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DON E. PERKINS

Don E. Perkins has lived in Iowa all his life except for his time in the Navy during World War II. He earned a Masters in Education degree at the U of Iowa. Don is married, has three adult children, and two adult grandchildren. He lives in Des Moines.

This page was first displayed
on September 29, 2006

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