One Hundred Years of Sass This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

November 22, 2016
My mother always says that the water in North
Carolina must be from the Fountain of Youth.
From what I have seen, I believe her.
I hadn’t seen my Great-Aunt Maxine since I was
14, and though the drive was eight hours and paved
with mind-numbing boredom, I was excited to visit.
Besides, it is not every day that a family member turns
My parents and I arrived at Aunt Maxine’s house at
the same time as a number of relatives who had made
the trek for her birthday too. I was eager to get out
after the claustrophobic ride, but I made sure not to
rumple my dress, hair, or sun hat. Something about her
and her house always made me want to look my best.
The towering magnolia tree cast just the
right amount of shade over the porch. Add
a glass of sweet tea and it was the perfect
place to watch the fireflies come out on a
summer evening. Within seconds of our
arrival, Maxine herself appeared on that
porch. She could hardly get a word out
she was so excited, her eyes watering with
happiness. I imagine that she had been
watching for us at the window.
Though it had been many years since I had been
there, I knew her house by heart. Everything about it
was big, old, and Southern, even the smell. It smelled
like old and like art, but not old art. No, the art – all of
it painted by Maxine – had a definite “new” smell. It
only felt old. That old-feeling house made me feel like
an intruder, like I was interrupting the centuries-old
hum with my modern tech-savviness.
Aunt Maxine was the same as the house, aside from
her size. Shorter even than me, she never wore anything
but skirts that went just past her knees and crisp
blouses neatly tucked in. She was a Southern Belle
through and through. She plopped down on the couch
with the rest of us. Maxine could hardly hear us even
if we shouted – her only disability – so she did most of
the talking and we listened.
She certainly had a lot to say. In her Southern drawl,
she caught us up on everything that had happened since
we last were there. It was part of her news that sparked
my mother’s comment about the water.
“My friend across the street just turned a hundred
and one,” Maxine told us. “We have a contest to see
who will live longer. I have to say, I look much better
than her. She’s all wrinkly and fat.”
I couldn’t stop smiling. Maxine’s stories just got
better and better, painting pictures with words just as
well as she did with her brush. We were all so transfixed
that after a bit she asked, “Why am
I the only one talking? This has got to be
boring for y’all.”
We assured her it was not, and to our
delight she continued updating us.
“You know, I got kidnapped.” She nodded
at our wide-eyed looks. “My lawyer
wanted me to look at a nursing home. I
told him I’d go because he wouldn’t shut
up about it, but I told him, ‘I’m just goin’ to look. I
ain’t giving up this house. I don’t need to live in a
nursing home.’ So he took me there, and when I turned
around, I saw him driving away.” She shook her head.
“I was there for three days before I got to a phone. The
staff tried to stop me, but when a lady grabbed me, I
bit her hand! Then the police came, but I had known
the officer since he was a boy. I looked right at him and
told him to take me home. He sure listened.”
If I were that police officer, I would have too. Eventually,
Maxine spread out a copy of the local newspaper
on the coffee table and said, “Look! I’m famous,
like a movie star!” She pointed at a headline that read
“Local Artist Celebrates One Hundred Years.” The
article was three pages long and all about her life and
work as an artist.
Even for us, who knew her life story, it was amazingly
interesting. It was even informative, to a degree,
as we learned about a fourth husband that none of us
had known of in between breakups with my Uncle Jack
(which means that because she is my aunt by marriage,
she was first not my aunt, and then my aunt, and then
not my aunt, and then my aunt again when she got
back together with my uncle permanently).
Like the cool lemonade I drank at dinner, the visit
was wonderfully refreshing. As Aunt Maxine said
good-bye to me that night, she began to cry. “When
you’re old and sentimental like me, you get all worked
up and make a jacka** of yourself,” she sniffed. As I
laughed and hugged her, a wave of happiness, warm as
the summer sun, washed over me.
One hundred years of sass and counting, and Great-
Aunt Maxine is still going strong.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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