A couple of weeks ago I was corresponding by email with a Birmingham woman coordinating a book-signing for women authors. “Is your maiden name Harwell?” she asked after our initial exchange. “Went to Berry (High School)? And if yes, had a fender bender in your dad’s car during summer school? (American History, I think.)” 

Dad-gum-it! You just can’t escape your past, or the dreaded “permanent record” teachers used as the ultimate threat for maintaining discipline.

I did, in fact, hair-lip the front of Daddy’s 1978 sage-green Chevy Nova, the first new car he ever owned, by rear-ending a telephone company van that was stopped at a red light. I had just gotten my driver’s license, and Daddy was kind (or foolish) enough to let me take his new wheels to school. Some classmates and I piled in afterwards, and headed for McDonald’s. The fateful wreck happened on the way back.

I haven’t seen the former classmate in almost 40 years, and had to look her up in an old yearbook to put a face with her maiden name. How the heck is her memory that good at our age? I really didn’t need the reminder about the event itself.

I have never felt so bad in my life, except maybe the time when I was 8 and threw my kitten in the lap of a lady having coffee with my mother at the house. Mother had told me to make sure the pet stayed outdoors because her friend was deathly scared of cats. I didn’t believe anyone could be afraid of a kitten, so I called her bluff. Bless her palpitating heart.

Curiosity didn’t kill that cat, but it about killed our guest and subsequently me. Mother never believed in “waiting ‘til your father gets home” to wear us out. She was quite efficient at meting out discipline when deserved. Lucky for me, she didn’t leave a permanent record on my backside.

Other reflections of my permanent record include the shiny gold 14k earrings and pendant a jeweler designed for me after Fred and I married. The pieces, each molded into my full monogram, were made from gold melted down from the gifts of past suitors. “To all the men I’ve loved before” is what I call the collection.

Mother has a similar pendant, which she calls her trivet. But I doubt hers is as fraught with vengeance as mine is, considering she has been married to my father since she was 17.

Fred’s permanent record has at least one little vulgarity on it, thanks to the great state of Alabama. His truck’s license plate reads “002ANL,” and so he is.

When we got our new plates a couple of years ago, mine was “001ANL.” But I turned it in for a vanity plate, refusing to drive around with such an unfit descriptor on my car’s rear end. Especially since I am anything but OCD. Now Fred, on the other hand ...

I won’t even go into the perils of posting vulgar or otherwise inappropriate things online. They never go away. My kids have heard that particular “permanent record” lecture since they were old enough to tweet.

Our permanent records are floating around everywhere in cyberspace, mined from census data, online activities, purchase records, you name it. And, as anyone who’s gotten a marketing phone call or targeted pop-up ad can attest, they are for sale.

Mother has had a great time messing with a retirement home that has barraged her with mailers inviting her to join their rocking-chair brigade. A recent one invited her to an informational luncheon at the home.

She called the facility and declined. “I can’t come to that luncheon because I died last week,” she informed the woman on the other end of the line. “So please stop sending me those advertisements.”                    

“Oh,” the woman said. “I need to refer you to someone else.”        

She was transferred to an answering machine that identified itself as “the desk of” another person.

“I’m not used to talking to a desk, but I can’t attend that luncheon because I died last week,” Mother told the desk.

She’s still waiting to see if the desk replies. My guess is that it will sell her death data to a dating site for seniors, and Daddy will start getting Facebook invitations from single gray-hairs.

Imagine when Mother greets the casserole brigade at her front door, alive and well and wearing her monogrammed trivet!

Aunt Sister is a Southern Lady who was raised right, but overcame it, bless her heart. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram @auntsistersays.

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