Ann Cannon: 10 things about me and my Aunt Blanche that might surprise you

First Published      Last Updated Feb 10 2015 07:56 pm

So I've written before about my grandmother's sisters Bea and Blanche, who were about as different from one another as two women could be. Bea was Tigger. Blanche was Eeyore.

In spite of their differences, they seemed to get along with one another well enough — except for that one time I took them (along with my grandmother) to the mall to buy some fish and chips. We discovered we were missing an order after sitting down, so then Bea asked Blanche where the Happy Halibut went and Blanche said she didn't know and who did we think she was anyway — the Happy Halibut police?

Words were exchanged. And after Bea realized Blanche was actually sitting on the missing order, MORE words were exchanged.

But whatever. That's not the point. I'm sure aunts accidentally sit on orders of fish and chips all the time. The real point is this: I recently went to a viewing with my parents where we ran into an elderly couple who knew Blanche's family. When the husband figured out that Blanche and I were related, he said almost the last thing I would have ever expected someone to say about my great-aunt.

"Did you know Blanche was a champion pole-vaulter?" he asked me.

I was dumbstruck.

Wait. What? My Aunt Blanche was a champion pole-vaulter? I immediately texted this surprising information to my brother who lives in Las Vegas.

JIMMY: Wow. I didn't even know pole vaulting was invented back then.

ME: The only thing that would have surprised me more is to learn she'd been a champion pole dancer.

JIMMY: This could create a whole new line of family jokes. Why did Aunt Blanche choose the pole vault for her event?

ME: Why?

JIMMY: Because the 100-yard dash in a prairie skirt was too hard.

I know. Hahahahahaha. And just for the record, I fully expect our great-nephews and nieces will be making up jokes about me and my brother one day, too.

Still. I've been thinking a lot about my pole-vaulting aunt, sailing over a high bar while shouting YOLO beneath a blue bright sky. I wish I'd known about her life as an athlete. The information might have made me see her a little differently when she was still alive.

This experience has also led me to consider (once again) how many of our family stories we never hear. Seriously, if you'd been a champion pole-vaulter in your youth, wouldn't you want all your kinfolk to know? So why not generate a list called "Things About Me That Might Surprise You" and encourage the people in your family to do the same.

My list would look something like this:

1. I won a purple ribbon at the State Fair for some random eggplants I grew in my backyard one summer.

2. I was in the fourth grade when my dad realized I didn't know the difference between my left hand and my right hand.

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