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When we first meet Auntie Braxton, it appears she's just a crazy old cat lady who doesn't socialize much or get out and about on Rass Island. She has about 16 cats, but Louise swears it's more because it smells so awful by her house. Yuck.
Like most people on Rass Island, though, Auntie Braxton has a backstory that's pretty darn interesting. The Captain is the only one on Rass who knew her when she was just young Trudy Braxton, and he also knows that, in addition to a whole mess of cats, she has money. There are also lots of hints that there might have been a romance between them at one time (before the Captain skipped town, that is):
"Old Captain Braxton had plenty, but he never let on. He let his wife and child scrimp by on next to nothing. Trudy found the money after they both died. And it scared her something silly to suddenly find all this cash, so she come running to my mother. My mother treated her like she was her own daughter. Poor Momma," he shook his head, "she never gave up hoping I'd marry Trudy. (9.12)
Yup—there's more than just a house full of stinky cats to this lady.
Auntie Braxton is also the catalyst for a bunch of important moments in Louise's life. Louise finds her on the floor of her living room after a stroke, which is pretty upsetting and leads to Caroline befriending Call and the Captain when she's able to get rid of Auntie Braxton's weird, smelly cats. Louise isn't too thrilled about this moment, and she starts to separate from her pals.
It's also pretty awful for Louise when the Captain finally marries Auntie Braxton. Caroline points out that the marriage makes sense, and in a way, it does: the Captain needs a place to stay, and Auntie Braxton needs someone to take care of her. Plus, since there were hints of a youthful romance between the two of them, we get the feeling that the Captain and Auntie Braxton genuinely have feelings for each other. This doesn't make it any easier for Louise to swallow, though.
After Auntie Braxton dies, the Captain gets the brilliant idea to use her money to send Caroline to school in Baltimore since Auntie Braxton loved music so much. Again, this plan totally makes sense—Caroline used to visit the house and sing for Auntie Braxton all the time—but still, it upsets Louise. In the end, then, Auntie Braxton causes a lot of heartache for Louise, though she never means to.
Even though Auntie Braxton is kind of just hanging around in the background, she plays a pretty important role in the story.