Pretty Is, As Pretty DoesI have an Aunt Mercy. She is nearing her one hundredth birthday. She is blind and lives in a nursing facility but she still enjoys her Appalachian folklore, she especially enjoys passing on her little country sayings. "Pretty is, as "Pretty" does, is the one that she gifted to me. From the time I was old enough to toddle over to her chair, she could not stop herself from whispering this into my ear. I was cute and I was prissy, I was the baby, the little darling, and the clown of the family, but, Aunt Mercy never did not find me all that amusing. Every time I did something "cute" Aunt Mercy would curl her finger at me and I would obediently walk over to her chair, where she would place her mouth close to my ear and whisper "Pretty is, as Pretty" does" This was fine for a while, but, there came a time that I was no longer interested in her opinions of my prettiness, or lack of it.
I came up in a very confusing time. One day I was rolling down my white anklets and strapping on my shiny black patent leather Mary Jane's and the next minute, I was slipping my foot into barefoot sandals and whipping off my bra off in favor of mamory freedom! The world was mad and I was a part of it all. Without fail, Aunt Mercy was always around to whisper in my ear, "Pretty is as "Pretty" does" eventually, I began to loathe the old woman and everything she represented.
We lived out in the country when I was little. I had a devastatingly handsome, witty older brother, he was one of those guys that other guys flock to, a leader of the pack sort, a virile, entertaining, masculine, "Man" God., The type that all the other guys had "man crushes" on. He had herds of buddies that regularly invaded our little house. My Mother did not appreciate their antics, not one little bit. My orderly Mother would routinely chase them all outside, waving her pink plastic fly swatter behind them, prettily laughing as she was shewing them. The wire screen door would slam and they were off to the woods for the biggest adventures of their lifetimes. They ran wild in those hills and hollers for hours, wading in creeks, having dirt battles, climbing trees in the sunshine, they even built a cabin back on the hill with bunk beds that had straw mattresses, once Mom and Dad took me back there to see it. When those boys slipped back in and tiptoed up the creaky stairs to my brothers room. At least one of them would grab me up and toss me high into the air or swing me in fast, dizzying, frightening circles by one foot,then set me back down and tousle my hair or tug at my pig tails. I adored them one and all!
Then, the world turned upside down. The Viet Nam War, the draft, the boys leaving one by one until my brother was called. The house grew silent and the air grew thick and tense. Out of the blue, my parents decided to pack me up and move to the suburbs. Looking back, I think my trouble began when the Viet Nam war entered our everyday lives and we left the wild green holler in favor of the freshly poured white concrete streets of "The Springs".
In the new house, we ate on TV trays and not at the kitchen table. We did that because the war was on the news. Screaming bloody boys were being loaded on to whirring helicopters to either die or be patched up and sent back out in the jungles. No one said it, but I was old enough by then to understand that we were really only watching to see if one of those scared, shot up boys was my brother or one of his buddies from the holler. I grew sad and angry, I grew rebellious and nervous. I began to pray although we weren't church people, we were democrats, that's all I knew. Still, I prayed and prayed, everyday in the shower, I prayed on my knees with the water beating down on my skinny back bone, I prayed and prayed that my handsome brother would come home alive. On TV, caskets were being unloaded on the news at the local airport, I always wonderd if someone I knew, some silly hearted country boy that had been smiling as he had tossed me into the air or tugged at my pig tails was lying stiff and bloody in one of those flag draped coffins. We got chilling letters from my brother that left me feeling helpless and sad. My class made candy and collected 45 rpm vinyl records to send him because he told me in one of the letters that they had a record pla
On TV, women were marching for liberation and burning their bras in rusty barrels in the middle of the street. Black people with angry faces were holding their fists high into the air, chanting, drumming, and sometimes throwing bottles and rocks into cars down town, they wanted equality too. We didn't get to go down town anymore, my parents were afraid of getting a brick thrown into their Chevrolet. I was so confused, what was everyone so angry about, why were boys dying? What was the problem with bra's for Christs sake, I just wanted to be able to wear one? Why were black people trying to smash up Chevrolet's with bricks?
My stupid Aunt Mercy noticed a change in my behavior one day, when I sassed my Mother in front of her, she called me over and whispered "Pretty Is, as "Pretty" does" Something was different now, I was not embarrassed any longer, I was furious, Inside of my head I remember thinking "Don't worry about it, you ugly old cow" I was becoming vicious and mean and I think that is when I stopped going over to my Aunt when she crooked that wretched finger at me. After that, I ignored her. She was part of a generation and an attitude that I had no respect for. By the time my brother finally came home, something in me was broken. I couldn't cry when he turned out to be somene else, someone I did not know. He talked differently, he walked differently, every other word he spoke was "Gook" and he never stopped lighting and devouring cigarettes. His eyes bl
I went to see my Aunt Mercy in the "home" the other day. She must have smelled me coming, when I placed my fifty year old hand on her frail, bird bone, hundred year old shoulder, she crooked that knarled finger at me, I bent, she whispered "Pretty IS, as "Pretty" does" and softly added, "sweetheart" I don't know why, maybe it was menapause, maybe it was the ghosts of my past, but I began sobbing, I couldn't stop, I kissed her withered cheek and I ran to my car in the rain.