I have always rejoiced in the large family my daughters have acquired. They have aunts, uncles, cousins and they have had four grandparents to love and remember.
I had two grandmothers I can remember and one grandfather I barely remember. By the time I was 14 they were all gone.I had rare contact with cousins--all of whom were older than I was.
But I remember Aunt Carol, my mother's younger sister from early on.
I remember her cats. They used to follow her home, she and her husband said. There was big fluffy Persian Anna Mae (perhaps I realize now named for Anna Mae Wong, the movie star) who wouldn't come out and associate with me. And Tippy, an adorable kitten who played with me and probably set up my lifelong affection for tabby cats.
I remember her being there for New Year's Day, and she and my mother cooking a ham, and helping put in the cloves. I remember Mom serving us all "hors d'oeuvres",putting out the "Lazy Susan" tray (my brother and I loved that name, since my mom IS Susan) with Ritz crackers and cream cheese with chives and carrot sticks and things that I wouldn't eat then, but love now--pickled herring and olives. Those were the rare occasions when I can ever remember us having company, or particularly a family party.
I remember when she and Uncle Wally moved to Dobbs Ferry or Ardsley or some such into a country cottage and being scared to climb a ladder to the attic. And I remember helping her plant seeds for a garden, something that has become a regular part of my adult life.
I remember the wonderful drawing she'd make for my birthday cards--she was talented with watercolors and colored pencils. And on my bookshelves of childhood books are copies of "Winnie the Pooh" and "The Wind in the Willows" with loving inscriptions inside.
Her husband, my Uncle Wally, was a ne'er do well and a dreamer who always had a plan. Shortly after their first son was born they left for Europe. They would live in Scotland and he would write great books. When that didn't work out, they moved to Spain, 2 kids in tow by then. By the time they came back they had 4 kids, had been teaching English for a living and were using fake British accents that made me wince--I was 18 at the time.
When they realized my parents couldn't support them financially (and wouldn't) they moved on to New Mexico where there were cousins with more means. And there they stayed.
My uncle died about 15 years later and my aunt and oldest cousin decided to move east. My parents were happy to offer them house room briefly but when it became plain they were in no hurry to move on, my parents did it for them and relations after that were strained. Eventually my aunt and cousin went back to New Mexico and they've been there ever since.
Earlier this week my mom called to tell me that Carol had died of a massive heart attack. She was 74, five years younger than my mom.
I hadn't seen her in 30 years, since that time they came home from Spain and stayed with us.She never sent me as much as a card when I
got married, or when my daughters were born, though I know my mother
must have done that for HER kids and her grandchildren.
I know my mother always had a hard relationship with her. My grandma was widowed before Carol was born and had to struggle to raise them. I think everyone must have spoiled cute little Carol and that a lot was expected of my mother.
She was the good, serious one. Carol was, as my mom puts it, "Bohemian"
But she was her sister. And as angry as my mother got with her, she loved her.
And many years later, as glad as I am to have my mom with her steady, secure love, I am also glad I had a little of the magic Aunt Carol gave me when I was little.
Her leaving us doesn't leave a big gap in my life. She left me long ago.
But I loved her. And I still remember her with that love.
Aleha Shalom, Aunt Carol.