At first sight my Aunt LaDonna was my hero. I was 5, she 55; although we were never sure of her true age. She claimed to be 39, and when my mom would laugh hysterically she would say..."okay 49..." and take a drag off her cigarette....Virginia Slims. She was (gasp) a divorcee in the early 70's, quite the scandal amongst the neighbors. She had jet black hair, short shorts, micro minis and gold lame go go boots. She drove a white cougar with a light blue top and she always parked straight down the driveway making it impossible for anyone else to pull in. Thus the Schneider-ism of "you park like Aunt LaDonna" and this is NOT a good thing, and often was the source of irritation for my father arriving home from work. She had an uncanny ability to drop in just in time for supper. My mother thought her to be very colorful, and since my father relocated our family from NY to Florida, she was just the show stopper my mother needed at the time. Quite the diversion. Aunt LaDonna would take us girls, Melissa, Monica, and me for an overnight, she would paint our toe nails bright red (our mother would never allow that then or now) and we would make crank calls well after our official bed time. Her favorite was, "Hey mister is your refrigerator running?" The man would say sure, and she would say, "I know I just saw it running down the street." And we would explode in gales of laughter on her big king sized bed with a black rotary phone that weighed at least 20 lbs. She had two poodles that she dyed pink and blue.....painted their nails and put bows in their hair. She was a card.
Every Christmas she would get a fresh tree, paint it with white snow so the needles would last the whole year and with each Holiday she would change the decor for the season. February would bring hearts and cupids, shamrocks for March, Easter eggs in April....4th of July red, white, and blue. My Father was always amazed that the whole house did not catch fire. She was a bright light. The last time I saw her was my Nursing School Graduation Party. She was in a tight white dress, her skin tanned, bright red lip stick, her hair was still coal black, but under her war paint was a 75 year old hot mama. She was headed to Vegas for a change of scenery as she had tired of the sunshine state.
She is no longer at our dinner table but her legacy still lives on! I still paint my toes bright red in her honor, and I can still her her laugh as she always had a joke to tell that would make my mom gasp.