They discovered the first one in cupboard above the stove, beside an unopened bottle of malt vinegar. Grandfather had not been dead for very long, but since the entire family lived on the other side of the continent, time was of the essence. Directly after the funeral, aunts, cousins, and children gathered to clean out the estate. The emotional tension peaked when Great Aunt Ethel, Grandfather’s oldest sister, shrieked loud enough to shake the dust from the rafters. Tucked away with the condiments and spices was a lewd, topless hula dancer. She jiggled merrily as a shell-shocked Aunt Ethel plucked her from the cabinet.
The next one resided on the center shelf of the downstairs linen closet, amid the Egyptian cotton sheets, and Italian lace tablecloths. It was immediately heaved in the garbage by a scandalized second cousin from Charleston. Less than an hour later, Sue Ellen caught her husband trying to smuggle two of the half-naked imps out in his coat pockets. The ensuing argument must have been quite loud because the cops showed up soon after. My mother, Grandfather’s only daughter, was quite traumatized by the entire spectacle, and retreated to the wine cellar to take an inventory.
In the master bathroom, it wasn’t a hula dancer, but a topless mermaid that caused the older women to gasp and sputter. She stood just inside the door on a tiny shelf, guarding the light switch with an exaggerated come-hither look. After the seventh one was found, the women dismissed all the children and men from the house, insisting that the property needed surveying. “Surely,” someone muttered, “there’s no nudity on the lawns.” My mother never returned from the basement. It must have been hard work digging through all that stuff in the basement because she had a headache the entire next day. After two days, it was decided that the emotional turmoil of cleaning out the “old lecher’s” house was too much, and a company was hired to clean out and auction off the entire estate.
Though we laid my grandfather to rest, the memories are nothing but fond for me. The hot, itchy crinolines my mother had insisted on that long ago summer served their purpose. When I start feeling lonely or depressed, I simply go into my kitchen, open the cupboard above the stove, and set the naked cherub to jiggling and dancing.