Auntie Bo

Bo is one of my oldest friends and my closest girlfriend.

But when I met her, and for the first couple of years, she and all of her five-foot-nothing self scared the absolute bejesus out of me.

She was a tornado in a brown tank suit when we met at a swimming pool in Elizabeth City the summer before tenth grade.   

She cursed like a stevedore, smoked like a chimney, and hoo boy, her voice.  Instead of a fifteen-year-old Catholic schoolgirl from NC, she sounded like a jaded whiskey and nicotine-soaked chanteuse from the forties.  She should have been reclining on a piano in a bar in Harlem, belting out songs like “Stormy Weather” or “Good Morning Heartache”.

I tried to stay out of her way in school.  But after a while, I discovered there was a huge heart under all that profanity and prickliness.

The funny thing was, all the while I was thinking she’d happily lunch on my spleen after setting my house on fire, she thought I was a stuck-up stiff (I think the phrase “Miss Priss” may have been used).

Eventually, we became real friends.

We were in art class together.  Ma Romm was our teacher, and I don’t think that there was ever a better art class.  Each student went their own way, with plenty of room for collaboration, and lots of freedom to create the things we were compelled to bring forth.

She always treated us like, if not adults, at least like college students.  She trusted we were able to navigate the world and didn’t chain us to our easels.

One teacher-workday, we went out to school to work on a project we had going.  Ma Romm asked us if we could take a quick trip to Greenville to either pick up or drop off something to their art department (hey, it was 38 years ago, I can’t even tell you what color underwear I’m wearing right now without peeking).

Well of course, we said of course.  At the time, ECU had been ranked the #1 party school in the nation, and there was a bar/restaurant called The Crow’s Nest near the campus that I loved; it was the first place I ever ate clam strips, and the drinking age for beer at the time was 18.  So…yeah.

We were psyched. 

Remember, this was before GPS, during the era of paper maps that required an engineering degree just to re-fold.

It’s a lazy trip that should take no more than two hours along the rivers and sounds of Eastern NC. 

Our road trip got turned around a couple times, but we made it in about two and a half hours.  We did Ma Romm’s errand, feasted on seafood and Miller ponies at The Crow’s Nest, then headed home around 4:00 PM. 

We drove.

And drove.

And drove some more.

I don’t know if it was the ponies, the paper map, or the folly of youth, but we got very lost.  At one point we drove through Wake Forest, about 75 miles in the wrong direction.

We finally pulled into the school parking lot around 10:00 at night.  A completely empty, darkened parking lot. 

The long day had made us punchy.  So punchy that upon arrival, the only thing we could do was sit in that car and laugh. 

We went to Ma Romm’s house, pulled her out of her own dinner party to tell her we were home.  I don’t think she ever believed our tale of a Marco Polo-like journey through the state.

And that’s the story of our first road trip.

But not the last one…

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at

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