My Great Grandmother was heard to say that every family has black sheep. She was referring to her daughter, Great Aunt Minnie (Margot). In a big family with eleven kids there's plenty of room for at least one black sheep.
Minnie told her husband she was the youngest, but she was actually number eight. Seven years older than my grandmother who was the youngest. She outlived her husband, Ben, by a few months and died at 91, a sweet young thing of 84 in his eyes.
For many years they had an apartment in Highland Park that was nested behind a huge Sears and Roebuck store. It was an old dark brick building with a courtyard in it's middle. A statue of a young boy peeing was its center piece. I loved that statue. Serious art pees, right?
The apartment itself was on the second floor with deep set windows where she had a collection of scruffy plants in odd ceramic pots shaped like frogs, Easter baskets and cupids.
The best part was the dining room. It was a gloomy room, but this was where she made hats. The table was filled with hat blocks shaped like faceless heads. I loved watching her steaming felt with a tea kettle and pinning it on the blocks forming the bases for her hats. She was probably the most creative person in the family, also the craziest.
She'd put all their dirty clothes in the bathtub and they'd stay there until my Great Aunt Betty would come and take them home and wash them for her.
At 52 (real years) she had bleached blond hair and loved wearing shocking pink. Back in the Roaring Twenties she roared. She danced on tables and was quite a party girl, or so the story goes.
She'd walk me to the grocery store and tell all the boys bagging groceries that when I was a little older they'd all be dying to date me. I was mortified.
She had a parakeet named Joey. Joey pecked my head and pooped on me. I hated that bird.
Once when I had spent the night with her, Saturday afternoon was quickly approaching. My father was coming to pick me up. Minnie didn't want me to leave. She said I should hide.
I was really ready to go back home. I was sick of the bird and she was done making hats. But she was insistent, she wanted to keep me.
She told me to go down the apartment building's backstairs, the dark, scary backstairs, out the back door of the building, walk across the parking lot and get lost in Sears. I was afraid of the dark back stairs so she walked me down, opened the outer door and gave me a little push.
What do you do? I couldn't get back in. So I walked to Sears and roamed the aisles. Was I going to have to live in Sears my whole life? What would happen when they closed? Would the police hunt for me? With big dogs? Was she planning to come find me?
And then I saw him. My very tall, furious father. He took me by the hand and lead me out of the store. He knew this wasn't my idea, probably by the look of relief on my face when I saw him. He took me home.
Although I saw her at family gatherings, that was the last time I was in Minnie's apartment. I was seven.