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Aunt Gladys

March 29, 2009

I have thought of Aunt Gladys so many times over the years. I was introduced to her — a character in Philip Roth’s short story Goodbye, Columbus — back in college. She is a minor character, but is so well-defined, that she has always been one of my favorites. This excerpt about her dinnertime routine of serving each family member separately says it all:

“Aunt Gladys, suppose tonight we all eat together. It’s hot, it’ll be easier for you.”

“Sure, I should serve four different meals at once. You eat pot roast, Susan with the cottage cheese, Max has steak. Friday night is his steak night, I wouldn’t deny him. And I’m having a little cold chicken. I should jump up and down twenty different times? What am I, a workhorse?”

Aunt Gladys (Roth) plays (writes) the proverbial martyr perfectly. Or, is she a control freak? Whatever her reasons, I think she’s perfect. I can’t tell you how many times I have thought about her — definitely every time I jump up from a meal to fetch something. I yearn for more of Aunt Gladys’s quirky matronly wisdom. Wonder what she would have to say about ready-made frosting or chicken nuggets or Tide with bleach or plug-in air fresheners …

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