Monday, November 24, 2008
The Aunt Chronicles - Part 1 - Alice
I had four wonderful aunts. I decided to feature each one in my blog. Their uniqueness contributed to a happy childhood for me. I begin with Alice, born in 1894 and died in 1977.
Aunt Alice had a soft spoken voice. In my memory she always had gray hair, neatly arranged by weekly trips to a beauty shop. She seemed to be a powerful influence over my mother, her youngest sister. She often stated she did not care for bossy people, but she herself knew how to get others to do things. Aunt Alice visited us quite often, usually staying overnight. She told my mother I had to have a new mattress because mine was not any good, and would no doubt harm my spine. The day Aunt Alice left, we went to a furniture store in Ashtabula to purchase a new mattress for me. I had never noticed this flaw in my sleeping arrangements.
Aunt Alice sat at our breakfast table one rainy day in the 1950's in Jefferson. My brother readied his things for school. Aunt Alice said, "Ronnie, only boys who are sissies carry umbrellas." He put down his umbrella and left for school in the rain. As far as I know, my brother never touched an umbrella again. My mother fumed about that one, but Aunt Alice had the last word.
Aunt Alice feared some things. She had reoccurring nightmares about someone stealing her purse. I used to take her shopping, and she almost always mentioned this. She even pointed out people who might be planning to carry out the deed. The thought of being near a hospital made her cringe. She did not like to even visit people in hospitals. She always thought if she herself had to go to one, she would die.
Sometimes Aunt Alice had an adventurous streak. Once she came to see us in the summer a couple days before our annual summer vacation to New York City and points east. On a whim my father said, "Alice, why not go with us on our trip?" Her eyes lit up as she reached for the phone. Despite just having clothes for an overnight, she said, "George, I'll be home in two weeks instead of tomorrow."
Aunt Alice became the family seamstress, since she was one of the older children in her family. She made me a blue checked blouse with my initials that I still have. She also knit me lots of pairs of red mittens over the years. Aunt Alice loved to cook. Since Uncle George had a hardware store, she generally had lots of up-to-date equipment. Her homemade applesauce was out of this world, because she put it through a blender. We did not have one of these at my house. Once when I was a newlywed, I found a potato masher in the door. When she found out I did not have one, she brought me one asap. To this day I think of Aunt Alice when I mash potatoes with that same masher.
Aunt Alice always gave herself a birthday party picnic on July 6. She invited her siblings and their children. It usually ended up with about ten people. It was a dark day for Uncle George when a load of manure arrived on the day of the big picnic. You can imagine the smell. That only happened once.
My mother, brother and I made numerous visits to Hudson in the summer. Aunt Alice would take me on shopping trips to Dodd's department store in downtown Hudson for something special. I don't remember what these things were, but I always liked them.
Aunt Alice and Uncle George were members of the Congregational Church in Hudson. I don't think they attended all that often, but Aunt Alice read the Bible daily. One of the last Christmas days we were together, she gave me Rockwell Stewart's personal Bible. The print is incredibly small. Grandfather Rockwell died in 1912, so of course I don't have any personal memories about him. I am glad to have his Bible.
Aunt Alice attended my high school and college graduations, wedding and many other special occasions in my life. She was an amazing person, and a very meaningful one to me.