History repeats itself, and so did I. My exposure episodes were not content with the Welch Hollow and Janie’s house incidents. Apparently, someone decided more humiliation was needed.
Mom and I were in town, and stopped by to visit Aunt Ann, Annie, Michelle, and baby Nancy. We found Aunt Nellie visiting with two of her daughters, Nancy and Barbara Kay. Aunt Sophi and Uncle Albert were in the process of building a ranch home across the street. Aunt Sophi walked over with Barbara Ann and Janet Ann, turning the afternoon into a party atmosphere.
It was a hot summer day, with my cousins jumping through a rotating sprinkler in Aunt Ann’s front yard. Making the occasion more festive, older cousin Nancy (as opposed to younger cousin Nancy), sat on the front porch and watched. We could not ask for a better audience member. Annie and I idolized her. Older Nancy grew to become a beautiful look-a-like for Jill St. John in Diamonds Are Forever, but with platinum blond hair.
“Don’t get wet, because we can’t stay long,” said Mom.
Some people learn from their mistakes. I wasn’t one of them. Neither was Mom, or she would have let me get wet. I watched Michelle get a bathing suit from her mother’s bedroom closet. I went to Aunt Ann’s room, shut the door, took my clothes off, and slid her closet door open. I should have checked for a spare bathing suit first.
“Mary Barbara, where are you? It’s time to go,” called Mom.
I heard Annie, Aunt Anne’s oldest daughter who was my age, say she saw me go into the bedroom. I jumped behind an overstuffed chair in the corner, before the door opened.
“I don’t see her, but her clothes are on the floor. Why would she take her clothes off?” asked older Nancy.
Annie and Nancy looked in the closet and under the bed. When they left the room to help search for me, I climbed out to put my clothes back on. No clothes anywhere. Annie or Nancy took them.
I returned to the closet to search for a bathing suit and once again heard voices coming close. I pushed to the back and hid behind Aunt Ann and Uncle Mike’s clothes. My bare feet stood on their row of shoes.
“I didn’t look behind the chair,” said Annie.
I heard her kneel on the chair cushion to peer over the back. I wasn’t there. They left again and I resumed my search in the closet for a bathing suit. None was found. For lack of a better plan, I hid behind the chair again.
A breathing noise made me look up. A younger cousin’s face hovered over me. Once again, I heard a familiar refrain.
‘Here she is! And she’s naked!’
My aunts, cousins, and unhappy mother rushed to the bedroom. I stood behind the chair and hoped it camouflaged my nakedness. With any luck, no one understood the naked part of my little cousin’s shout. I tried for a casual look, as though it was perfectly normal to stand in the corner behind a chair in my aunt’s bedroom.
“Mary Barbara Norton, get over here now,” ordered Mom.
I waited for the extra audience members to leave. Not wanting to miss the show, they didn’t budge.
“I said now! Don’t make me come drag you out.”
My exposure produced a collective gasp from the onlookers. Clearly, my cousins did not work as hard as I did—intentional or not—at turning their mother’s hair prematurely gray. Thank goodness for Lady Clairol.
Unlike Welch Hollow, I had nothing to hold in front of me. My episodes of accidental nakedness appeared to be escalating in embarrassment, possibly because I kept getting older. I was bathed in phrases of disappointment and disbelief, and found the meaning of shame, again.
Annie handed my bundle of clothes to Mom. Everyone but Mom left the room while I got dressed. The show was over.
“I just wanted to play with everyone and get wet in the sprinkler,” I explained.
I don’t know what my poor mother thought, having a daughter that kept disappearing and turning up naked, but hopefully she learned it was in everyone’s best interest to say yes when I wanted to frolic in the water.
Lesson learned: Try to at least keep my underpants on.
Now it’s your turn: What embarrassing thing have you done in front of your extended family?
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