Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sepia Saturday. My crazy little aunt

I'm not sure this photo is sepia and it's only 1947; recent compared to most of the posts.

This happy group consists of my uncle, aunt Alvina, aunt Hilda, my sister Eilleen, my grandmother Lucy and on the right, my auntie Mary Pearl who had Turners syndrome. She was 4'4" tall, weighed about 80 pounds, never sexually matured and looked like a child with an old ladies face. It's the only picture I have of her.

Pearl lived with my grandmother Lucy and her 2 maiden sisters in a large house next to the church and I saw her every Sunday. In her sixties she was officially diagnosed as a schizophrenic but for most of her life she had acted a "bit odd" as her sisters used to put it. For example, she took naps in a large dresser drawer - disconcerting for the adults, but a great idea as far as me and my young cousins were concerned. We loved her because she was small and her quirkiness made her a lot of fun.

Pearl's memory was prodigious and the family used her like a laptop computer. On demand, she could reel off all the family dates of significance:  birthdays, anniversaries, engagements, deaths plus she kept very close tabs on the weather and the weather statistics - a particular specialty. Pearl's peculiarities were easily tolerated in that unconventional family; there seemed to be enough psychological space or elasticity to accommodate her undeniable strangeness.  She didn't leave the house often - this photo was taken on a very rare visit to our house. As you can see they were barely enduring the visit and didn't even take their coats off. Until I first experienced Pearl in a context outside of her house in a "normal" situation, I never realized how different she was. And because I had a crazy little aunt, I assumed everyone else must have one too! Of course, later I realized the down side of having a crazy aunt both for her and for the family. Much, much later I realized how lucky we were to learn about tolerance and diversity as youngsters.


  1. Wow, that was an interesting story. I haven't heard of Turners syndrome.
    (Did you go to the Sepia Saturday site and put your name in? Look for the thing that says "Linky") Everyone would love reading about your little aunt (as I did). Especially the part about tolerance.

  2. Turners syndrome is often very mild and now can be helped with hormones. My aunt's case was severe - although she lucked out and wasn't mentally retarded as some are.