By Lucia Clapps Mudd

Aunt Dora was a dumpling of an aunt. She spoke in hems and haws. With hands overlapping on her belly, she sputtered in fits and starts. “Ummh, huh, ehhe.” Reticent and unsure with words, she was right as rain in the kitchen; silky homemade pasta, sugary eggy tarall’s, minestra and what a minestra!

Uncle Paul was Dad’s beloved uncle, a superb storyteller and Aunt Dora was Uncle Paul’s beloved wife.

Yet it came to pass that one of the favorite stories to come out of the two family house on Oak St. was Aunt Dora’s to tell.

It seems that Uncle Paul’s sister, Aunt Sadie, was not well and Aunt Dora went to New York, to Masbeth, to take care of her. Aunt Sadie was sweet and mild with a large rosy dot on each cheek and soft curly hair. Her husband, Uncle John, was a fine tailor but a mean man. From his Fifth Ave shop he dressed New York’s finest, celebrities and movie stars, Cary Grant and Adolph Menjou. But he couldn’t stitch together a kind word.

Aunt Dora ministered to Sadie with true devotion. She hurried about the fine house in Masbeth cooking and cleaning and tending to Sadie. When John came home from Fifth Ave he’d start criticizing. He liked everything done the way his mother did it, his mother from Vetri. He belittled and berated Sadie even in her sick bed, finding fault and finding it with pleasure. This really steamed the loyal and devoted sister-in-law.

This particular day, Aunt Dora set about to make her minestra, a complex task. She peeled and chopped and simmered and stammered, “Humm, ehhh, uhhh” runzeling along with the low boil of the pots.

When Uncle John came home he started right in with his taunting. “My mother used l’oss’d’maial’. Where’s l’ oss’d’maial’?”

Ahhh, huh, oh, you want the bone!? Okay, then I’ll give the bone.” So she reaches in and pulls the precious prosciutt’ bone out of the soup; brass knob coming out of the holy water. Then nice and wet and dripping she delivers it directly to Uncle John Head! BOTTA BANG. “Oiyy!,” She covers her mouth with her hands as she recalls the contact.

“Ummh, ehhe, she continues, And then the lump came.”

We laugh out loud. We applaud her. “Well done, Aunt Dora, well done!”

A benediction, a long time coming. “Huuh, umu, huuh” the priestess incants, remembering. And we praise and honor her.