I may have mentioned previously that Aunt Gertrude, eccentric as she is, is not really as tight-fisted and mean as she leads one to believe.
Before she came to visit us in the UK and stay for a (long) time, she lived in Australia where she moved many years ago, and we had not seen her since. Our only communications with this distant aunt was by yearly Christmas cards. And that’s how she gained the reputation, in our minds at least, of being rather mean.
She used to re-cycle old Christmas cards, and not for any environmental reasons or to save the planet … no, she re-cycled them because it was cheaper than buying new ones every year. She used to save old cards sent to her by relatives and friends and then glue a piece of paper over their best wishes, and write her own seasonal message instead.
The first time we received such a card we were astounded and amused, but yearly, we learned to peel off the paper she glued on the card to discover the original sender. We played a guessing game of “friend or relative” before peeling off Auntie’s message to discover whether we’d guessed the originator of the card correctly. One year she had re-cycled one of our own old cards we had sent her!
Anyway, once she arrived at our home any suspicions of an avaricious old lady quickly faded away. She is a kindly person, most generous, almost to a fault, albeit with quite a few eccentricities which make her somewhat tolerable despite her grating pronounced Australian accent.
It’s traditional in our family to open the Christmas presents, which Santa left under the tree, when we return from midnight Mass. This year was no different.
As we sipped our cups of hot chocolate and enjoyed the mince pies we eagerly opened our presents and thanked each other with hugs and kisses.
To everyone’s surprise, and initial confusion, we discovered that Aunt Gertrude had bought each of us a very large chocolate egg.
Chocolate eggs for Christmas? Surely not.
As we jokingly enjoyed the surprise she explained that she had bought them a few days after Easter because the shops had reduced the price. And, reasoned Aunt Gertrude, “chocolate is chocolate cobber, no matter what shape it is.”
To be fair, this was not an act of meanness per se, because the eggs looked expensive, albeit the shop may have reduced them a little. But her logic was that “you never pay the shopkeeper what they ask for, but what you’re willing to pay!
“If the price is not right cobber, you just don’t buy it. You can always go without!”
Impeccable logic one might say. And perhaps a sign of her careful management of money. Something which today’s younger generation may have forgotten.
But then she spoilt it all when we came to open her second presents left under the tree. Each one of us received a very expensive sweater. And I mean very expensive. The kind of jersey you see advertised on TV in very up-market shops.
“What is the point” I wondered “of saving e few pennies by buying Easter eggs cheaply after Easter, and then spend a fortune on these magnificent jumpers?”
But then, that’s our Aunt Gertrude.