My Aunt Cindy passed away last night. I don’t know a thing about her cooking or her family’s favorite recipes. I do know she had beautiful black hair and the cheekbones that showed the Cherokee part of her heritage. (I wanted both desperately as a child.) Aunt Cindy had very long hair during my childhood and I loved to brush it. Seeing her was a highlight of going to visit my father’s family when I was a child. (Ok, so the horses were a bigger draw, as were the tiny bottled ice cold Cokes in the farm garage fridge).
That’s her over there in the pony cart with me sitting next to her–sometime in the seventies. I suspect 77 or 78 from my haircut.(Yes, I rocked the young tomboy look and yes, those are boys overalls–girl overalls didn’t hold up to me.)
She loved The Beatles and bowling. She and my older sister (the one who is 13 years older than I am) were best friends. They would hang out in our basement when she would come to visit. She potty trained me while my mother was in the hospital having my little sister. She was the fun Aunt. She had no children when I was small to compete with me for my grandparents attention. I wore a cutesy dress (a peach calico) that matched my younger sister’s dress to her wedding 36 years ago. She wasn’t afraid of me or my childhood seizures. She took in stride the oddity that was me as a child. She smiled a lot. Nothing about my rough and tumble gave her pause. Maybe because she was young (not quite 19 when I was born), maybe because that is just who she was or maybe her age more my older sister’s generation than my other aunts.
She has two sons, that while younger than me are both adults. One of them has some serious genetic medical issues that the geneticist obsessed about when I was pregnant with my 15-year-old and another doctor obsessed about when boy child had seizures as an infant. The matching birthmarks my son and I have apparently mean more than just a fairy charm. Who knew? I am still betting on fairy charm though.I
Her husband is a stunningly quiet man. So much so, my father, also a quiet man noted it.
I grew up. I got married. We lived all over. I had three kids. I got divorced. I met this woman. I fell in love. She got beaned. More kids. We moved to Illinois and I have considered going to see my father’s family. But somehow, without my dad, it never felt right.
I suppose I should have and I should have worked harder to keep her email address to say “hey, what does your family love? What do you love? What do you cook?” “What are your boys really like?”
Because you know what? I am still that tag-along kid with all the questions. Can we look in the RV? Why does it work that way? Why can’t I drive the pony myself? Why do you saddle the horse that way? How old do I need to be to ride the big horses? How come? Can I help clean the horses? How does the electric fence work? Why? Can I brush your hair? How does this 8-track tape work? What is special about The Beatles? What are you thinking? Where are you going? What are you playing? Why does the bowling league dress like that? Why is it so quiet here when the bowling league plays? How does the pin machine work?
She was the Aunt with the answers and the time for a little girl (even when she wanted to spend time with my older sister without the little brat tagging along or spend time doing “grown up” things.) I bet she would have had time for grown up me too. She was a good woman.