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Great-aunt Jessie was a character.  She had her own ideas about how life worked, and everyone was expected to conform to them.  For instance, if she invited you over for dinner, you knew that you had to bring the food, cook it and then clean up afterward.

Here are a few anecdotes from various relatives:

One time, she was here visiting and she told me to bring her to a friend’s house for dinner.  I asked, “When is she serving dinner?”  She said, “I don’t know.”  “Didn’t you ask?”  “Probably 6:00.”  We got there, and no one was at home.  They didn’t know she was coming.  So, then she said, “Bring me to so-and-so’s.”  “Well, they don’t know you’re coming, either.” She was quite the Jessie.

Her wig always seemed to change direction.  One time, it was so windy, her wig blew right off, and traveled down the street like a tumbleweed.  She was yelling at me to get it, and I was trying not to get hit by cars.

When she backed out of a driveway, she would count to three and go, whether there were any cars coming or not.  And, the turn signal in her 1949 Studebaker didn’t work.  Instead of putting her arm out the window to indicate she was turning, she would just put out a hand and wiggle her fingers. 

Jessie was complaining that her shoes were untied.  Well, her shoes were buckled, so they couldn’t possibly be untied, but Oscar said, “Come here and tie Aunt Jessie’s shoes.”  So, I pretended to tie her shoes.

I remember when she went for a long walk, and then realized she’d have to walk back.  So, she walked up to a stranger’s house, knocked on the door and asked them to drive her back, and they did!

Jessie could be irritating and frustrating, but we loved her.  As a personal historian, I have worked with families who were unwilling to talk about relatives who didn’t “fit in” with the rest of the family.  It’s a shame, really, because I see those relatives as rough cut, unpolished jewels; gems who can sparkle when regarded with the right light.

My cousin is considering writing a couple of children’s books based on Jessie.  I think it’s a fabulous idea. 

This Thanksgiving, I will be expressing my gratitude at having been born into a family with diverse viewpoints and perspectives; who are willing to spend time outside of the box to appreciate the complexities of life.  But, most of all, a family who loves one another unconditionally, regardless of the eccentricities that may reside in each of us.

What stories do you have to share about your eccentric relatives?

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