Auntie T and Anti-T ~ Part I

Julia Child and friends

The familiar voice — an absurd, bird-like trill of enthusiasm — pulled me toward the living room. Irrationally hoping that the doyenne of dough had raised herself from the dead to once again begin unraveling the mysteries of pâte feuilletée or asperges au naturel, I found instead the trailer for Julie and Julia, the charming, if slightly overdone true tale of Julie Powell, a dissatisfied office worker who determined to prepare every recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking within the space of a year.

Watching the clip, I wasn’t inspired to go searching for my pastry cloth, but I did remember how closely Julia Child resembled my beloved Aunt T. My father’s younger sister, she seemed both exotic and mysterious. In the course of her occasional visits, she dropped advice, humor, and an alternative view of the universe into my life like so many bouquets garnis: nudging me to look beyond the bland certainties of a 1950’s childhood.

As America emerged from WWII, the practical, thrifty, and reasonable folk who surrounded me considered it poor form to put on airs, and very few did. The fathers went to work, the mothers cleaned their houses, and the children completed school projects and chores before playing outdoors until suppertime. The sun rose, the sun set, and the days’ comfortable routines were punctuated by comfortable, routine meals.

In those days, chickens — purchased whole and cut up at home — always were fried.  Tuna hot dish, as much a staple of midwestern life as Garrison Keillor’s humor suggests, was considered perfectly acceptable, as were salads of lime jello mixed with crushed pineapple and cottage cheese. Celery and carrot sticks served as appetizers, and anything with ice cream on top qualified as a fancy dessert. Pedestrian, it may have been: yet it filled a need, and everyone was satisfied.

In truth, all of my childhood needs were satisfied. If I needed school supplies, we went shopping. When I outgrew my best shoes, they were replaced. A remarkable seamstress, my mother made sure that I had pretty clothes for school, and my father always was available to fix a broken roller skate, or replace a damaged bicycle tire.

On the other hand, if I wanted licorice, water colors, or comic books, I had to save. In those days, everyone had a coin jar for spare change, a little box for pennies, or a serious piggy bank for more serious saving.

Made of metal, with removable plates so tightly screwed down few children could get them undone without assistance, the piggy banks even looked serious. Only a determined child with passionate arguments could persuade ever-so-thrifty parents that it was time to tap the funds, and I rarely was persuasive.

With Aunt T, there was no need to be persuasive.  She loved the grand gesture, and the extravagant gift. We may have been tuna hot dish, but T was bouillabaisse. While our roots held us to the  cornfields of Iowa, T moved to Manhattan and put down roots on West 16th Street, at the very edge of the dissipation and weirdness we imagined to be Greenwich Village. 

In time, she married a man from New Jersey.  Tall, slender, and taciturn, my uncle was the very opposite of my aunt, who resembled nothing so much as a plump, perfumed steamroller. They traveled in airplanes and vacationed at the Jersey Shore, and when they abandoned their romantic, East Coast life to sweep back into town for a visit, everyone in four counties knew they’d arrived.

T doted on me.  She arrived with hugs, kisses, and wonderful gifts: salt-water taffy from Coney Island, or Drost chocolate in the shape of wooden shoes. One Christmas, there was a wonderful pop-up book filled with jungle animals and princesses; another brought my first bottle of perfume. But no matter what I unwrapped, it always came with a card. The five-dollar bill tucked inside invariably was accompanied by a hand-written note directed to my parents: “Let her spend this on what she wants. Don’t make her stick it into that pig.”

Eventually, I began to amass capital in earnest, picking up fifty cents here or a dollar there by performing small chores. One month I earned ten dollars, and mentioned the fact to my aunt during one of her visits. She asked how I intended to spend the money, and I said I didn’t know.

When Christmas arrived that year, the holiday mail brought a box from New York much larger than usual.  I opened it to find another box inside. Beautifully wrapped, it didn’t rattle, or swish, or clunk. In fact, it didn’t make a sound, and it seemed weightless. I couldn’t imagine what it was.

Finally allowed to open my gift on Christmas Eve, I squealed with delight. It was Aunt T’s version of a piggy bank: a delicate, bejeweled, and floral-encrusted elephant with a rubber stopper in the bottom that could be easily removed without adult supervision.  This time, the accompanying note was for me.  “Put this next to your piggy bank,” she wrote. “When you earn a dollar, put half into your pig for things you’ll need, but put half into your new elephant, for things that will make you happy.”

In time, the toys, the games and the dolls — the traditional pleasures of a young girl’s childhood — slowly dropped away, but the jeweled elephant remained.  Today, she sits on my dresser, and travels with me during hurricane evacuations: cosseted and coddled in bubble wrap and towels as befits a true treasure. She’s lost her rubber stopper, and one rhinestone is missing from a back foot, but it hardly matters. Her importance isn’t as a functional bank, but as a reminder of a kind and generous woman.

A serious, somewhat reserved and shy child, I sometimes viewed my aunt with a certain ambivalence: unsure whether she would arrive as a breath of fresh air or as a tornado bent on destruction.

What I never doubted was that she embraced life with eagerness and appreciation, or that other adults sometimes seemed inclined to diminish her influence in my life.  “Oh, that’s just T,” they’d say. “That’s just the way she is. Don’t pay any attention to her.”

Of course I did pay attention to her then, just as I attend to her memory today. Living in a world where it can be easy to forget the importance of pleasure, not to mention the pleasure of extravagance, I think of her as I watch friends, acquaintances, and perfect strangers become increasingly fearful, living out increasingly constricted and measured lives.  

Watching, it occurs to me that we are losing what my aunt possessed in abundance: true, good-natured humor; the willingness to risk foolishness; and an appreciation for the grand and expansive gesture. Fearful of using the wrong phrase, eating the wrong food, supporting the wrong cause  – eager to make only correct and useful choices – we’re beginning to look more and more like my pig, and less and less like my elephant.

Auntie T, bejeweled and sparkling with joie de vivre, seemed always to be on the side of expansiveness and life, not to mention the exuberant, uncalculated gesture. Her wisdom, neither dour nor prescriptive, always came with a smile, and never suggested it might have come at a cost.

And yet my aunt hadn’t always been the happy, sparkling woman I knew.  Parents, grandparents, and an assortment of other relatives and neighbors — for reasons I only can surmise — concealed part of her story for decades. Every family, it seems, has its secrets.

(to be continued…)

Comments always are welcome.


113 thoughts on “Auntie T and Anti-T ~ Part I

  1. Your brief introduction of Julia Childs brought memories of her and her popularity on television. I never saw her TV show, but I did see the film,”Julie and Julia”, starring Meryl Streep as Julia Childs. Her performance was absolutely outstanding.

    I know what you mean by living a constrained life with very little humor and calculated risks. That’s who I am. My wife is more cheerful and full of what you describe as the joy of living (Joie de-vivre). Being so different, we compliment each other smoothly.

    Maybe living on my own most of my life, molded me this way. I was trusted to a friend of my parents in Panama City while attending high-school. During that time, I was on my own and took my own decisions. I even signed my report card, since my parents lived about 600 kilometers away from the capital city in a United Fruit’s banana plantation called Changuinola.

    Your narration was very pleasing to read, and at the end, I yearned for more. Will be waiting in the wings for the continuation of the entertaining story of your interesting relative..

    1. “Julie and Julia” was a wonderful film. I’ve seen it twice, myself, and enjoyed it thoroughly.

      I think the saying about opposites attracting has truth to it: at least as much as the birds-of-a-feather point of view. My paternal grandmother and grandfather were opposites in a multitude of ways. My father and mother were quite different, too. When it gets interesting, of course, is when those opposites exist in a single individual.

      Just last night, I was talking with a different aunt about her journey from my great-aunt’s house in Baton Rouge back to Iowa after a visit. She made most of the journey by train, and by herself, in the middle of wartime. She was about twelve or thirteen, and no one thought much about it. There are youngsters of that age today who barely can find their way to school.

      I laughed at you signing your own report card. I had a friend who tried to pull that off after receiving a couple of bad grades. It didn’t work out very well for her.

      I’m glad you enjoyed this first part. Now all I have to do is absorb what I’ve found, and write the second.

  2. What a wonderful and interesting tribute to your aunt. Your description of your childhood could almost be generic in the way many of us remember ours. I know I identify with much of what you wrote about your family. It really is too bad that some people are fearful and too serious today.

    1. Despite the ridicule the era takes, it was a good time to grow up. Of course there were social ills, economic dislocation, and all of the other vagaries of modern life. My mother’s mother died when Mom was sixteen, and my dad’s father was injured in a slate fall in a coal mine and never worked again. But the family ties were strong — precisely how strong, I never realized. But more about that in the next post.

  3. Aunt T had a great idea with giving you the elephant bank. It serves to keep the child satisfied, but also teaches to save.
    Gee, I sure wish I had appreciated those routine days of childhood more! When mom said, “Stay as young as you can for as long as you can.” – she sure wasn’t kidding!!
    Terrific post, Linda. Thanks for the look back. (both in your life and my own!)

    1. Keeping a child satisfied is not always an easy task, but satisfied I was. Teaching a child to save isn’t the easiest thing in the world, either, but I learned that lesson well. My aunt helped, but my father played his part, going with me to the bank every week as I deposited my twenty-five cents into my Christmas savings account, and had the passbook stamped.

      Digital is convenient, for sure. But a real trip to a real bank, to put away real money, and watch the teller stamp a real passbook? Those are the sorts of experiences that shape children for a lifetime.

  4. What a DE-Lightful reminisce. I had an aunt (my dad’s sister) who was very similar and full of tales! Thank you for sharing.

    I hope you received needed rain — we did not get anything but that short tease on Friday. Don’t know what happened to 90% chance!

    1. Grandparents are special, but aunts and uncles are special, too. I was lucky enough to see mine fairly often, and they helped to fill the void left by having no brothers or sisters — particularly Aunt T, who was willing to let her inner child run pretty free.

      We did get some rain last night, but today’s been essentially dry. In Houston proper, and just north, they received inches of rain, and there still are flash flood watches here and there. I’ve got my fingers crossed for tomorrow — we need it, too.

    1. I suspect there are more of them than we realize, Terry — some related by blood, and some not. In many cultures — and even in the American South — ‘aunt’ and ‘uncle’ are used as terms of affection and respect for people who play important familial roles. The beauty of that is that the pool of potential Aunt Ts can grow rather large!

  5. I think I’d have liked your Aunt T, Linda. I, too, was a serious, studious child, yet a big part of me craved the whimsical. Her gift of the bejeweled elephant — and the wise words she tucked within it — speak to my inner being. I guess I’m the kind of person who, if I have two coins to my name, I’ll spend one on bread and the other on a rose!

    Another thing — isolated as we are in the Midwest, we tend to find it “exotic” when someone we know lives in a faraway, expensive city. I had one uncle living in Chicago and another in London, both places that my child’s mind saw as magical. Oh, the stories!

    You’ve got me curious now over the rest of Aunt T’s tale — and I’ll definitely be back to read it. By the way, “Julie and Julia” was most interesting — I’ve seen it at least twice now, and would gladly watch it yet again!

    1. Everything is relative, Debbie — even the definition of exotic. New York, Chicago, and London certainly fit the bill, but I can remember thinking of Omaha and Des Moines as pretty darned exotic. Even places like Lake Okoboji — part of the so-called Iowa Great Lakes — were outside of my experience.The lakes seemed so far away, and yet they couldn’t have been more than a couple of hours’ drive. On a bad day, it can take me that long to get to the other side of Houston.

      Whimsical is the perfect word to describe many of the experiences I shared with my aunt. She loved a good joke, and she loved to be amused, but her humor had a tenderness to it. It never was meant to cause pain, and people seemed to know it.

      No spoilers here, but I think I can guarantee that you’re going to be surprised when you read Part II. As the song has it, “it goes to show you never can tell.”

  6. I was fortunate to have an “Aunt T” in my life. Oh my, I did love lime jello with pineapple and cottage cheese. Wonder if I would still like it today?

    1. I can report that as recently as six years ago, I still liked it. My mom was no fan of arugula or planked salmon, so during the years I was cooking for her, tuna hot dish and a whole variety of jello salads were the order of the day. My personal fav always was the one with spiced grapes and pears, but I’m sticking with the fresh greens now that I’m back to cooking for one.

  7. Mine was “Mama Jewel” – my great aunt whose first name was indeed Jewel. Crazy, wonderful, wise, impulsive, and everything in between. This is a lovely blog that you have written.

    1. I just had a look at your blog about John Sebastian, and stopped at this: “Protected from almost anything unpleasant in my family of origin, I knew no details.” That sort of protection was more common than I realized: although to what end, I’m still not certain.

      In any event, I’m glad you enjoyed this, and i suspect you’ll enjoy Part II, as well. To paraphrase Annie Dillard, the world is wilder than we can imagine: more dangerous and bitter, more extravagant and bright.

  8. Lucky you were, to have an aunt that surely was a jewel. I can easily see her with your descriptive words even though you have not described her physically or maybe you did and I skipped that part somehow.

    I think the elephant and the symbolism of its size was equal to your aunt’s generous nature.

    I’m eager for your next post. I know it’ll be very interesting.

    1. I won’t say that all of my aunts and uncles were perfect. They weren’t, and one uncle (now departed) turned out to be a bit of a scoundrel. But they all were good to me, and family gatherings were great fun.

      One of the surprises I experienced while working my way through the whole of this story was how my aunt’s appearance changed over the years. I’d never seen photos of her in her twenties. Now I have, and you will, too. She started out slender, and ended up less so.

      Of course, she gained a Jersey accent, too. When I listened to her talk with my uncle, it seemed wonderful. Years later, I began watching The Godfather films, and burst out laughing when I remembered my uncle, cigar in hand, telling me that he was “in garbage.” I don’t even want to know.

  9. You mean you’re going to make me wait until Part two! That is not fair – I really did enjoy reading what I did, and I loved your pig and elephant. Did you keep your piggy bank? I love stories of such as your aunt, they always seem to have this elusiveness about them. But then again, when you’re a child, almost everything seem dreamy like. Don’t make us wait too long! I want to know what happens to your Aunt T.

    1. Unfortunately, I don’t have the piggy bank. In fact, I don’t know what happened to it. I’m just glad I still have the elephant. It stayed at my parents house for many years, while I was moving around from place to place, but when we sold the house and Mom moved to Kansas City, I finally reclaimed it.

      Not only is there a dream-like quality to many childhood experiences, chidlren often accept what is without too many questions. But more about that next time.

  10. Oh I’m in love with Aunt T already. Your wonderful childhood is what we tried to give our two girls, and I hope they remember it as fondly as you do your own. I have to admit my “Auntieness” (new word) was patterned by Auntie Mame, and there again, I hope they have pleasant memories of me from their youth.

    Your wonderful elephant is a treasure indeed. These things were not part of my own childhood during the Great Depression, and day to day living was at times rather hectic, especially and because of, our nearly annual moving at the insistence of the Military. But all memories are precious and we need to cherish them.

    1. Knowing what I do of your childhood and youth, and the wonderful life that you and Dr. Advice built for yourself, I don’t see how the good memories won’t outweigh any unpleasant ones: substantially, I should say. Of course, I could cherry-pick other memories and present a different kind of childhood, but that would lead to a strange sort of untruthfulness. No life is perfect, after all, but mine was very, very good — although it did irritate me beyond words that my mother wanted me to resemble Shirley Temple.

      You’re just enough older than me that your experience of the Great Depression was more immediate, but it certainly affected my parents and the family as a whole. The year 1938 loomed large in my research for the next post, and I was astonished to find that the National Guard had been called into my home town during that year because of labor problems at the Maytag plant. My parents didn’t live in Newton yet. That wouldn’t come until about 1944, when Dad was hired by Maytag. Still, I didn’t know anything about that strife until I read about it last week. I think a whole town probably was ready to move on.

  11. To be without restraint seems a reasonable aim provided no one gets hurt. I feel my mother’s sister Aunt Agnes somewhat filled that bill.

    She never married but as a teacher many of her students were in fact her children. So was I. The best part was her cutting out the strips of Erik De Noorman and posting them to me.

    She also used to come over during Queen’s birthday and get us to line the street so we could see her passing by in her golden carriage and plumed horses. In those days Holland was still very monarchical.

    People lined the streets ten rows thick. As a child I had no chance of being able to see her. Aunt Agnes anticipated my problem and had bought a contraption by which it was possible, through a series of little mirrors, to lift the view above those of the people blocking it.

    Everyone should grow up with a good Aunt.

    1. I had to smile at your comment about being without restraint, Gerard. It’s true that a lack of restraint can lead to trouble, but it’s also true that a quite remarkable degree of restraint helped to preserve my relationship with my special aunt.

      I’d never heard of Erik De Noorman, but I see he had a wife named Winonah. That caught my attention, since family members lived for a time in Winona, Minnesota. There’s no connection between the two names that I could find, but sometimes the sound of words alone is enough to trigger memories.

      Your Aunt Agnes sounds very much like one of my great-aunts, named Rilla. Also single, and also a teacher, she looks stern and imperious in the one photo I have, but my mother adored her. I’m not sure she was as clever as Agnes, though. Anyone who can provide a child a view of a parade is to be admired.

  12. I have lovely nieces and handsome nephews – from whom I received my “Aunt Neno” and “Aunt Nonee” names. I believe I hold a special place in their hearts, but, alas, it is nothing like Aunt T. I’m more of a “she would never give us a quarter for the gum machine” person.

    But fortunately I did over hear a grandchild say, “if you need fifty dollars, she will give it to you, but she won’t give you a quarter for the gum machine.” That is piggy bank for sure, not glitzy elephant! I do have a sister, however, who is glitzy elephant. She is Pied Piper with love drops in her path. I sometimes wish….

    1. You’ve got a bit of the glitzy elephant in you, too. You’ve just lived long enough, and are smart enough, to know that all those quarters saved from the gum machine add up to that fifty dollars.

      And while it’s true that T was a perfect aunt for a child, another aunt became far more important later in life. That “other” aunt, my mother’s baby sister, provided stability, insight into that side of the family, and a lot of phone support while I was adjusting to becoming my mother’s primary caretaker. Different ages, different needs. We’re blessed when we can meet them all.

      Your special names tickle me. I’m sure they came from two different children. Is one used more often than the other?

      1. My sister had three children. The second named me Aunt Neno; when the third arrived, she did the switch to Aunt Nonee. The others just went along with one or the other. I’m grandma to most of my greats but I have one who calls me Grandma Nene. On the gum machine: One time I refused the quarter, but when we got in the car I drove over to the dollar store and got a sack of gum balls for a dollar. The girls were impressed. But only until they were back with mama and daddy walking by a gum machine, I suspect!

        1. That’s fun, about the names. And it’s a little startling to remember that the gum ball machines in my day were only a nickel — and you got several gum balls for that nickel. Ah, me. I rarely fed the gum ball machines, though. I couldn’t chew gum. I always swallowed it. It seemed like such a waste of money, I just quit, and went with penny candy, instead.

  13. Your Aunt T reminds me of my Aunt Kay. Aunt K was not a blood relation but one of my mother’s best friends. She knew a thing or two about kids. Your elephant is a lovely thing, and your Aunt T sounds like a treasure.

    I watched Julie and Julia yesterday. I searched her almond chocolate cake recipe today. I have to make it. She knew how to live.

    1. I was surprised to find the chocolate almond cake so simple. No wonder it’s so popular. It cracked me up to discover that she began her tv series with boeuf bourguignon. As she said, “it teaches you so many important techniques of French cooking.” Well, yes.
      It also was a bit of a blast from the past to discover the series was sponsored by S&H Green Stamps.

      She certainly did know how to live. You’ll enjoy this 1989 interview. It includes this gem:

      “I’m afraid if we don’t get out of this terrible food-fear hysteria,” she says over salad, “it will be the death of gastronomy.” In case the word “gastronomy” conjures up a picture of a puffy-eyed, red-nosed blimp wallowing in wine and pork fat, a description of Julia at 77 might be helpful.

      Despite the fact that she refuses to touch oat bran, here is a robust, slim, vastly energetic presence who not only washes her own car and writes her own copy but answers her own phone, cleans her own lettuce and does her own dishes. Watching her work, it’s hard to argue with her philosophy of food-as-pleasure.”

  14. Anxiously awaiting the next installment. This is the sort of Auntie I’ve come to be although not because of example. My aunts were all taciturn sorts of do-it-because-it-needs-done women. But I do remember my great-aunts being somewhat merrier and sitting around the quilting frame with my grandmother, laughing and telling stories. It was from my grandmother I learned my love of cooking. And my Julia Child’s cookbook is still treasured in my bookshelf of cookbooks.

    1. They say that talent skips generations. I wonder if that includes a talent for sociability and merriment? Of course, circumstances shape our responses, too, and age brings both perspective and wisdom. Well: sometimes it does.

      I’ve never had a copy of Child’s cookbook, but I still have the original Better Homes and Gardens cookbook I started out with — the one with the red and white plaid cover. it’s dated in many ways, and my way of eating certainly has changed, but when I want the perfect biscuit recipe, or that squash casserole that taught me zucchini isn’t necessarily gross, that’s where I go.

      I’m anxiously awaiting the next installment, too. It will be harder to pull together than this one, but I suspect it will be less nostalgic and more interesting.

    1. Thanks, Nia. One reason I enjoy writing these blog entries is that, if my own memory ever starts to fail, I’ll be able to remember what I’ve forgotten!

  15. I must confess that I hadn’t heard of Julia Childs until I saw the film with Meryl Streep. It encouraged me to buy a small booklet of hers. I found it a wonderful read more than I would care to attempt her recipes. I do remember Fanny Craddock in Britain who must have tried to copy her almost. Lovely article – look forward to the next instalment

    1. Julia Child was such an important part of our lives for such a long time, it surprises me to hear that you didn’t know of her. On the other hand, I’ve never heard of Fanny Craddock. After reading a bit about her, I’d say that she and Julia were about as similar as my pig and my elephant: one mercurial, moody, and not always beloved, the other silly, self-deprecating, and unfailingly kind. In both cases, they surely did help to transform life in the kitchen, though.

      Like you, I was inspired by Child’s story and her approach to cooking more than I was inspired to try her recipes. On the other hand, when my mother wanted to make cream puffs, she always used Julia’s recipe. It never failed her.

  16. I am waiting for the continuation……..aunts and uncles or those who fill that role in our lives are, on the whole, a wonderful lot. I also like the way in some cultures aunts and uncles have specific relationships to us eg my mother’s big sister would not only be my aunt she would be my big mother. And my father’s younger brother would be my little father. I think that must give a child a great deal of security.

    1. When I was exploring which societies and cultures use the terms aunt and uncle more broadly, Australia and New Zealand were mentioned, but I didn’t find anything about having a big mother or little father. That’s really nice, and an interesting way to describe those special relationships.

      Now and then in Liberia, I’d hear someone referred to as Auntie or Uncle: general terms of respect for an elder. Of course, Old Man and Old Woman also were used, and no disrespect was meant there, either. One of my co-workers at the hospital was known as Old Man Johnson. When I first heard that, I recoiled a little, but before long, I could use Old Man as easly as any other name.

        1. I hadn’t heard a single word about Auntie Helen. It’s true that I’ve been avoiding some media outlets due to a bit of weariness with national politics, but I suspect that U.S. media probably aren’t focusing on UN matters just now, anyway. It was great fun to read, and I did like the way she so gently — enlightened — the person whose panties were just slightly in a wad over such a derogatory (or at least pedestrian) term. Thanks for the article — I’ll pay more attention now.

  17. I see you’ve seen “Julie and Julia” twice? I’m not a good cook and don’t aspire to be one, rarely follow recipes, so what appeals to me in that movie is the blogger. The new and the old in a delicious fusion. That’s what makes it work in today’s movies. Anyway, thanks for this tasty treat of a post. :)

    1. Isn’t that funny? The only other films I’ve watched twice in recent years are “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and “A Christmas Story.” With “Julie and Julia,” it wasn’t so much cooking or blogging that held the attraction, but Julia’s remarkable resemblance to my aunt.

      You’re right that the fusion of old and new — especially when done creatively — is a plus. In a way, a similar fusion lay at the heart of my aunt’s life. You’ll like it, I think.

  18. Crimeny I am hooked! Didn’t know you were doing serials!
    Love Auntie T. I had an aunt in my family with the best sense of humor. Actually lived with her my last semester of college. She had a story too I never knew..a sad one for such a wonderful fun person. Hope Auntie T’s rest of the story is not sad!

    1. I’ve split up posts into two or three “chapters” a couple of times. If there’s a natural way to do it, I think it’s much better than trying peoples’ patience with one long post. Besides, I only recently found more information about my aunt, and am having to absorb it before I can write about it. This time, the two parts are as much for me as for you!

      There’s so much we don’t know about even those who are closest to us. I think it’s one of the things that makes genealogy so much fun; it’s like putting together a puzzle, or solving a mystery. It’s the same when I walk a cemetery. If you read the stones closely, you can discover at least the tagline of every sort of interesting story. Of course, there can be some unpleasant surprises along the way, but that’s life, in all its complex glory!

      1. Well I certainly learned a lot about my family because I hung around my Grandmother in her latter days and this stuff just came up I never knew. It was kind of fun learning that my family wasn’t so darned perfect after all!! It made me view relatives as more than relatives but as flawed and wonderful human beings. In the best ways.

        I greatly look forward to knowing Auntie T better real soon!!

        1. That’s how I’ve come by some of my information — from an aunt who just passed 90, and who says, quite frankly, “If you want to know anything, you’d better ask, because I’m not going to be here forever.” Honestly, I think she’s been more forthcoming since my mother’s death. She was my mother’s youngest sister — the baby of the family — and I’m not sure she wanted to share some things while Mom was alive.

          Of course, part of accepting our flawed yet wonderful families comes wtih accepting ourselves as also flawed. It’s not something a teenager of younger adult necessarily finds easy.

  19. Putting on airs. That’s something that also never occurred to our family as my brother and I grew up. Someone may have been doing so, but I never noticed or gave it much thought. I am not sure putting on airs is looked upon very favorably by most still…although there are the Kardashians (of course, I say that knowing only about them from the tabloids at the supermarket checkout line). We were raised in hard times, never having much extra but always enough. Although not nearly as extravagant as your Auntie T, I did have one cousin who always showed up with stories (she traveled a bit and was assistant to Giancarlo Menotti and his Spoleto festivals) and would assemble a dollar bill ring folded and placed on my finger. At that time a dollar was a treasure…back then we had penny candy and 10 cent admission to movies.
    I’ve seen that wonderfully fragile decorated piggy bank before. I think it has been featured previously in a post or email?

      1. I’ve heard about that episode, but never had seen it. I’m glad I wasn’t planning on fried chicken livers with gravy for dinner! (I haven’t had those for years, but they were a favorite, back in the day. Yummy, really.)

        1. My dad had a deli and we sold chopped chicken liver. Later I worked at a Kosher grocery where “Bennie” had a secret recipe for them that he prepared behind locked doors. Not sure that was necessary, but it was good and people would drive from miles around to buy them every Sunday morning by the quart to last all week.
          I always liked chicken liver with onions but never tried them with gravy. Don’t care for beef liver.

          1. Now that you mention the chopped chicken liver, I’m remembering the Swedish “Leverpastej” that always was a part of our holidays. It was made with pork liver, and it was quite tasty, especially on crisp bread. Most of the time, though, we made do with the commercial products, just because the real thing was such a pain to make. Well — my grandmother didn’t think it was a pain, but my mom wasn’t about to get involved with a process like that.

            I don’t like beef liver, either, but they do serve it at the local cafeteria for people who just have to have it.

    1. You met the elephant bank on your blog, back on June 22. You’d posted about the small forget-me-nots. I finally figured out that they reminded me of the flowers on the elephant, and added a photo with my comment.

      “Putting on airs” is rather an old-fashioned expression, but I know people who do it today. The behavior’s the same, even if the name has changed. It seems to be more common in the female of the species, and often involves name-dropping (clothing designers, or high end resorts) or an insatiable urge to be seen only at the best restaurants. Passing for lbue collar as I do, I have some wonderful stories.

      That’s quite a gig your cousin had. My, goodness — I’m sure the stories flowed pretty freely.

      1. Thanks for the memory-jogger. Now I do remember that and am impressed that I remember seeing it back then considering I often don’t recall much.

        That was only part of her career. She also was a grant reader for the National Endowment for the Arts and business manager for Twyla Tharp and a ballet theater (I don’t remember which one…see :-) ) And now produces an opera that is under constant performance, I think, in Bali.
        I guess throwing her name around is a bit of “putting on airs”. LOL

        1. That opera must be quite a production. Apart from the plot, the music, the lighting, and all of that, it was fascinating to get a glimpse into Bugis society. It’s another reminder that simply saying something is an Indonesian belief isn’t any more appropriate than saying something is African. There’s more than a few thousand miles lying between the rain forest and the veldt.

  20. Seems your Aunt T had a touch of Mame, something we could all use. I watch a TV show called Tiny House Nation, and one of the main reasons given for people moving into a tiny house is to concentrate less on things, and more on experiences. They want fewer things to care for and pay for, and more funds to spend on going places and doing things. Being larger than life has its perils but it has its pleasures, too.

    1. Dear Aunt T would have a hard time living in one of those tiny houses. She and my uncle were large people, in every sense of the word; half of the siblings took after my impressively-sized Grandma and the other half looked like Grandpa, who was as slender as could be.

      The comparison with Mame is apt, though. Aunt T is one of the few people I’ve known who deserved to be described as ebullient.

      An idle thought, here: it’s not necessary to move into a tiny house to live more simply, or to prefer experiences to things. We have far more control over our lives than we sometimes like to acknowledge. Don’t like television programming? Turn it off. Feeling overwhelmed by social media? Disengage. Depressed by clutter? Clear it out. Rinse as repeat, as necessary.

      1. Mostly why people move into tiny houses is to simplify their finances, as in, it’s easier to come up with $30,000 to $50,000 to build a tiny house and own it free and clear as soon as it is finished, than it is to saddle oneself with thirty years worth of mortgage payments on $300,000 or $700,000 or some other ridiculously large sum to live in an American Dream house with 3 bedrooms, 4 baths, a huge time-eating yard, and big utility payments, not to mention both spouses having to work the type of jobs it would take to bring in that kind of income. The savings in time and money it takes to pay for and maintain such properties can then be put to use traveling, experiencing, etc. — and most tiny houses are built on trailers and are provided with hookups like RV’s or else are equipped to go off-grid.

        1. Granted, re: the financial angle. And as for those huge houses — well, I suppose. But I’d be moving into one of the smaller apartments here tomorrow if it weren’t for the view I have. Eventually, I’ll have to downsize, too, because of finances, but as long as I can keep working, I’m dedicating a goodly portion of my income to my water view.

  21. I also saw the movie “Julie and Julia” years ago. I also love the floral-encrusted elephant your aunt gave you! I have a blog pending which was going to deal with all these type of toys and memorabilia (mainly toys though) such as that elephant, but the world of plants has overpowered me. The blog is still up but has been very slow. Just one of those things, and I do have a collection of classic toys, but I will need more time still.

    1. I followed your toy blog some time ago, when you first mentioned it. I enjoyed looking through it, but it’s a fact of life that we can’t do everything — or, as I like to say, we can do it all, we just can’t do it all at the same time. A day has only twenty-four hours, and once I take out the hours necessary for work, sleep, and general life maintenance (meals, cat-petting, housecleaning, and so on) there aren’t many hours left. Either writing, or reading, or photography could easily eat up every one of them. Decisions, decisions!

      Still, there are overlaps. It was Steve Gingold’s posting of these small forget-me-nots that reminded me of the elephant. So, in a way, it was flowers that led to this post — at least, at this time.

  22. What a cliff hanger! I can hardly wait to read the rest of her story. I enjoyed reading about Aunt T, and the wonderful memories you have of her. I like how she told you to split your money between the pig bank and the one she gave you. . . a wise woman.

    1. She was wise. When you read the rest of her story, that advice to provide for both needs and wants will make even more sense. As so often happens, a few more facts can help to make sense of life’s little mysteries.

  23. These days, those days you recall, are gone. Who has the time to wait for jello to congeal?

    Your sweet story of Aunt T recalls days, time, and intentions that, unless you are Amish, vaporize into the helter-skelter frenetic pace that we have wrought.

    Oh sure, there are still parlors and crocheted throws, dandelions blowing over vast prairies, and Friday-night barn dances…but in populated centers (where we live) the story is tattoos, road rage, and mulit-cultural mish-mash that threatens the slow, simple, and American fabric we hoped would knit together.

    Your detailed memories of a childhood that Jean Shepherd might have recalled are rich with love and whipped cream.

    Thank you for your splendid writing.

    1. Those days aren’t gone at all. They survive perfectly well, at least here and there. I hear reports and see evidence of that helter-skelter, frenetic pace you mention every day, but I don’t live it. As a matter of fact, neither do my friends, or most of those I know from work.

      I bump up against it from time to time (Houston traffic — aggressive, rude, and nasty — comes to mind, along with the occasional mugging or assault) but so much that was good in my childhood (hand-written notes, home-cooked meals, telephone calls rather than texts or Facebook posts, Sunday afternoon drives, watching the sun go down) still are part of my life.

      Who has time to wait for Jello to congeal? My first thought was a wry one: those who want Jello shots for the party. But my more serious response is: those who are willing to take the time.

  24. This is just perfect. I have had a huge disruption in my life (note new blog, which I have yet to post to…) and my parents have come through like parents, and my aunts have come through – like Aunt T. The. Best.

    1. I’m new follower #2, and I just had an amazing time dipping into one of the blogs in your sidebar. Let’s just say it left me laughing, feeling old, and mystified by certain acronyms I couldn’t figure out. I’ll work on that.

      The thing about disruptions is, they’re so disruptive. Good that you had your aunts running interference, or serving as backup, or just being there. I only have one aunt left in my life, and when she’s gone, I suspect I’ll feel orphanhood even more than I did when my mother died.

      But on we go. Glad the post came at a good time for you. I’ll be looking forward to whatever comes next, over your way.

  25. I am totally enchanted by the story and that pearl of a swine with diamonds on the soles of her shoes.

    “Putting on airs” – always liked that phrase. Still use it from time to time despite few probably know what it means now.

    My very old Grandmother was so Aunti Mame – in fact she took me to see that movie. (We always went to see a movie at Christmas, but rarely any other time.) Grandmother rarely came to visit, which was mainly my mother’s doing – as if she was trying to prevent my contact with those sparkling eyes, independence, and bubbling adventurous attitude – maybe seeing the two of us had far too much in common.

    (OK sitting quietly over here waiting for the rest….there’s quite a crowd over here…waiting…)

    1. “Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes” is one of my favorites from the “Graceland” album, and one of the best renditions ever is from Simon’s African concert. Every time I remember that concert, I have to listen to “Under African Skies”. It makes me happy — and a little nostalgic.

      Here’s what I have to know — did you and your grandmother sing “We Need a Little Christmas” together? I’ll bet you did. it never occurred to me until just now that Mame and Aunt T both lived in Manhattan — although it was rent control, not wealth, that allowed my aunt to keep living on West 16th. She still was living there on 9/11. I’ll never know how I managed to get through to her by phone that morning, but I did.

      You’ll like the rest. There are photos.

      1. That’s one of my favorite albums and songs. (Which has been circling around my head the past year or so – “a time of miracles and wonder”…wish more people embraced that attitude these days.
        No, we never sang, but sat at the dining room table and talked while polishing all the vintage silver pieces. Actually there was some weird dynamics between my mom and her mother. Mom never let a chance go by to ridicule and belittle grandmother. Only a few years ago did I find out Grandmother was much closer to her step daughter and children than us. We rarely saw her, but no real wonder with my mom. Dad and grandmother had a great time together – both appreciated humor and fine literature.
        How cool Aunt T lived in Manhattan – those early years must have been such an electric art world full of interesting people.

        1. Silver polishing. I can’t remember the last time I went through that ritual. Granted, I still have the family sterling, and swear to myself now and then that I’m going to start using it. But the tea services, the trays, the bon-bon dishes? All gone — sold, or given away, or sometimes shoved into the hands of people who didn’t want them any more than we did. I can feel nostalgic about a lot of things, but not the silver.

          As for life in Manhattan? My aunt and uncle lived there, but apart from musicals, I honestly don’t think they engaged with the cultural world there. My uncle was a Jersey guy, and all of his family was in Jersey. They vacationed at the Jersey shore, and liked Coney Island. I’m not even sure when or how they landed on West 16th, but they never moved because it was a rent-controlled property. I looked up the building online, and found there’s one apartment available there today — for only $3,380/month.

          1. Your aunt and uncle sound like a movie – Coney Island and all? (Have you seen Brooklyn? Similar script)
            Most of the silver – all those difficult to clean pieces – and the glittering Victorian cut glass. Like you, all given on to younger hands – who actually have admiration for old things and spots to keep it safe – out of Hurricane zone. Whew.

            1. I still have the cut glass: mostly American Brilliant pieces. When I evacuate, I put it all in the dishwasher, and lock it. I figure if the house still is standing, it will be as safe there as anywhere.

            2. Time to double check and resort the contents of the portable tubs of what goes in the car…..RC tends to fill them all up with cat food and mousies saying “Whaaat?” if you try to suggest that’s a bit one sided….

  26. How how I love this essay. It carried me back to the good, safe, four square days of the 40s and 50s. I recall the terrible tuna bake recipe that began with … open a can of cream of mushroom soup. The menu you described was the very same one we were fed during those times.

    Despite its ridgid conventions many normal, happy families were nutured then, marriages were more stable, children found greater safety in which to run, to play and explore more freely. These times were so darned dull but had their bright side too.

    Now on to Auntie T. I love the joy and creativity she brought into your lives, and can hardly wait until the next installment when we discover her secret.

    Write on. I’ll be watching.

    1. When I think of the number of recipes that required cream of mushroom soup — well, we need to remember the enthusiasm of our mothers was based in a certain reality. Being able to create dishes that were cheap, easy, and filling was a valued skill. I have one recipe left that calls for a can of cream of chicken soup with herbs — and the truth is, that chicken casserole always is a hit.

      I suppose it’s easy to look back and call those days dull, but I didn’t experience them that way. On the other hand, I did have a bit of wanderlust, and a desire to see more of the world than the cornfields surrounding me. I was lucky enough to begin doing that as early as high school — and to have a father who was 100% supportive. My mother would have been quite happy to have me remain at home — I’d put her down for 75% supportive.

      My aunt T got to travel and experience new things: albeit not in any way that her family would have expected. I was equally surprised.

  27. Ah, your writing is just so easy and smooth…and readable! (I’m envious!) My early experiences within home and family were surprisingly similar. You describe the balance between thrift and satisfying needs beautifully. I had a set of grandparents who were the Aunt T’s in my life, bringing gifts from around the world, and also living in Manhattan. Though they didn’t quite outwardly express or condone the joie de vivre your Aunt T did, they actually did embody it, to an extent. What a nice counterpoint that was to my smaller world. I watched. I learned!
    I don’t see what you describe in the last 3 paragraphs so much – I think maybe it’s all about who you meet. They’re out there, those un-pinched lovers of life!

    1. Easy, smooth, and readable are wonderful, complimentary words. Thank you.

      I was particularly caught by your phrase: “I watched. I learned.” So much learning takes place in just that way, and it begins early. It’s one reason good YouTube videos can be helpful in learning particular tasks, even for big people. But when it comes to learning how to be a decent human being, having good models to watch is even more important.

      Your mention of those un-pinched lovers of life reminded me of Lawrence Durrell’s wonderful phrase from “The Alexandria Quartet”: “old women of both sexes.” In his context, it was a shortcut for describing humorless, constrained personalities with no capacity for play of any sort — let along acceptance of different perspectives. Today, the number of comedians who refuse to play college campuses is remarkable. It occurs to me now and then that a goodly portion of today’s college students are the humorless thought police that we used to rail against, half a century ago. Ironic.

  28. Your Aunt T sounds very much like my maternal grandmother. She was a ‘gift-bringer’ and would arrive with arms full of goodies: from the farm fresh vegetables and newly laid eggs for my mum, to the latest favorite comic, bags of sweets and chocolates, and always a shiny silver sixpence for my sister and I.

    Gran looked like your aunt from your description, and nothing like my mum, who was small and shy.

    As to this sentiment you wrote :-
    “I only have one aunt left in my life, and when she’s gone, I suspect I’ll feel orphanhood even more than I did when my mother died.”.

    The same here. It is almost scary in the fact we will soon be the ‘oldest’ generation in our families. If I am right, you do not have nephews and nieces, being an only child…but do you have younger cousins?

    1. I have two cousins on my father’s side, both older, and three on my mother’s side. We’re all within five years of one another, so there’s no real baby in the family. My lone surviving aunt was born nine years after my mother, which helps to explain how it is that she’s still with us. As my great-aunt Rilla liked to say, “Tempus fidgets,” and we’re all a little more nervous than we used to be.

      It’s funny how those small gifts — the comic, the sixpence, my chocolate wooden shoes — stick in the mind. Of course we remember bigger gifts, too: my first bicycle comes to mind. But the delight of the small gifts always was far greater than their size. I always enjoyed my Christmas stocking as much as any other gift. I suspect now it was because the act of unwrapping was as important as the object itself, and a stocking allowed for more unwrapping!

  29. I teared up at hearing how precious the elephant is to you – what a treasure she gave you! And so wise to give you a way to be practical & whimsical…

    I LOVED tuna noodle casserole, but my mother did NOT, so had to get it at school. Sigh. My mother made a jello salad that I loved too – with lime jello, apples, and cream cheese. I tried to make it myself, but it wasn’t the same.

    1. Now that I know the whole story of Aunt T, the elephant is even more precious — and meaningful. But that’s a flat tease, and I shouldn’t do that. I think I’ll have the second part up today, if all goes well, and then you’ll understand.

      You know, there were so many variations on that Jello-and-something theme, and most of them were pretty good. In the latter years, of course, Cool-Whip became a favored addition. I still remember a frozen dessert that involved fruit cocktail, nuts, little marshmallows, and whipped cream mixed up in some kind of Jello.
      Cherry, probably. But it was good — especially if it was made with real whipped cream, with an extra dollop on top.

      It’s funny, how we can follow a recipe our mothers used, and it still doesn’t taste the same. A different time, a different taste, I suppose.

  30. “Don’t make her stick it into that pig.” Now there is a classic quote. As you might imagine, I feel a bit of kinship with Aunt T., Linda. I’ve always considered it something of a sacred responsibility to help my grandchildren, nieces, and nephews (and other young people) understand that there are alternatives in this world, that it is okay to be different, and that one of the most serious things in our lives is a sense of humor. I’ve also always preached that they should do what they love. Come to think of it, maybe I am kind of a preachy fellow. Hmmm. :) –Curt

    1. Isn’t that a funny line? Apart from everything else, the fact that it’s endured all these years is a fine argument for written letters and notes rather than all-digital-all-the-time. Like book vs e-reader, there’s just something about picking up a real letter, unfolding it, and recognizing the handwriting that makes it even more pleasurable. Not only that, handwriting can be an important clue in the solving of mysteries — more on that in Part II.

      I laughed at your comment about preachiness. It sounds like you and your dad had a good bit in common, even if the content of the message differed in its details. The best humor, of course, has some depth to it, and is based on a pretty clear-eyed view of life. It’s not always easily won.

      1. I can’t remember the last time I received a real letter, Linda. I still have letters from ages past, however. Every few years I pull them out and reread them. I wrote to my dad when I was out on the bike trek and he kept them. They have served an important role in reminding me of specific events. For the past 16 years I have kept a daily journal. What I did on any given day is at my fingertips!
        I carry an imaginary soapbox around with me and climb up on it regularly. :) –Curt

  31. How I enjoyed this, what a marvelous aunt! I do like the idea of having a pig and an elephant, we do have to live a little, we only get one shot at this life and it isn’t a dress rehearsal. I’m very much looking forward to part two, and finding out a little more about your

    1. How right you are — we’d best be living every day, because not a one of them is going to return. And while i sometimes ponder the tradeoffs I made, my lack of financial security now still seems better than what so many friends and acquaintances have experienced: putting off life until retirement, and then being physically or otherwise unable to fulfill their dreams.

      This came to mind just now, and gave me a laugh. I had a pig and an elephant, but you’ve had a pige and a hog (or a few). All of them have served their purposes, and given pleasure in the process.

  32. Your aunt T seems to have been quite a character. And her philosophy seems quite appropriate today, one pig for what you need and one elephant for what makes you happy. I think one thing that has changed it all today, though, is the abundance of things. We are never quite happy with anything any more. We have lost the ability to enjoy the smaller things in life. Back then we had to save and long for something. Today we just buy it, at least those of us who can afford.

    1. Even those who can’t afford the things they want have credit cards now — perhaps a minor plague on the human race, but a plague nonetheless. As people have grown accustomed to living in debt, they’ve become more accepting of governments running up huge debts. The only question really is, when are the debt collectors going to show up?

      Today, I’m sure that Aunt T enjoyed life as she did partly because she had known want — in several ways. The second part of her tale is a bit difficult, and yet, for me, it’s just as heartening in its conclusions. It’s not easy to learn to balance wants and needs, but she certainly passed that class — and passed some of her wisdom on to me.

  33. I cannot help but think that Aunt T. must have been one of the great influences in your life. How could this wonderful woman not be? She gave you one of the greatest gifts: an assurance that life’s pleasures are at least as importance as life’s duties.

    1. She was a great influence, Friko. And she gave me much more than a reminder to attend to life’s pleasures as well as its duties. But for that “something more,” you’ll just have to read Part II, where things become, shall we say, more interesting!

    1. Isn’t it fun to have someone around who’s willing to push the boundaries — just a little? Even families playing games together were a great treat. Now, everyone is staring into their silly little screen1

      I’m glad you enjoyed it. It was great fun for me to remember Aunt T. She was a special lady.

  34. Very nicely done! I like your attention to the importance of pleasure. At first blush I though “But people are obsessed with pleasure!” But that isn’t quite right. They are obsessed with consumption. Pleasure admits a certain discipline sorely missed by many, but not all. I see signs of it here and there, in people working hard to live into their context with some intention. These people give me hope. Looking forward to part 2!

    1. I think you’re right about the difference between pleasure and consumption. It’s a little hard to describe, but still recognizable as truth. It’s akin to the difference between happiness and contentment, or between fun and enjoyment. These are fine distinctions, but distinctions worth pondering, nonetheless.

      Most people wouldn’t associate E.B. White (he of Strunk & White fame) with pleasure, but I do love this:

      ““If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”

  35. Oh Linda, she is your own Auntie Mame in a way — maybe not taking YOU around the world literally but certainly sharing that joy of life and the wisdom of letting go a bit, saving, to be sure but also having the fun thing.

    Your background and upbringing sounds a lot like mine but I didn’t have that Auntie T. Fun relatives to be sure — but that is so very special. I hope that I’m the Auntie T version of a gran when Kevin and Molly’s baby is born!

    I am anxious to move on and read the rest of the story!

    1. It’s fun to remember the things we did together, and none of them were particularly exotic: making bouquets of bachelor buttons and zinnias from the garden, picking out especially nice limestone rocks from the driveway and painting them with water colors, watching earthworms wiggle after a rain. She was the one who was willing to get down on the ground with a kid. She was a bit of a kid, herself. (And now that I know you’ve read part II, I can mention that she may have had a little of a child’s problem with immediate gratification!)

      There’s no question that you can be the Good Grandma: fun, and involved. But, wait. Baby? Have you mentioned this on your blog? Did I miss it? I must have. There’s no way you could have failed to mention such good news!

      1. I haven’t mentioned it on the blog — we’ve only been given permission to be public though some close locals that wouldn’t cross paths with the kids do know. Molly miscarried in November (we found that out late, too) and they wanted to keep it quiet till she made the first trimester. But she is due in February! I am excited — don’t know yet if it’s a boy or girl, but either way, it will be hugely loved. And I intend to be Auntie Mame. Or Granny Mame!

  36. There are so many things you mention that fit experiences I had, so all the more delicious how they match and then diverge. That you still have the jeweled elephant is remarkable, and how lucky to have that memento of oh, so much more. I recognize the foods, oh my, how much so, though the jello salad I remember used miniature marshmallows rather than cottage cheese. Quite grim, actually, yet I remember it with fondness because it conjures up a lost world.

    1. Ah, yes. Miniature marshmallows. Every holiday, the jello was set aside in favor of a salad made of pineapple chunks, mandarin orange sections, marshmallows, and coconut — all held together by sour cream. It sounds weird, even writing it, but it was good enough that I might even be tempted to produce some. Maybe.

      It’s been interesting over the years to notice what artifacts of childhood were easily tossed, and which I cling to. It was my mother who wanted me to keep my doll collection. Once she was gone, so were they: likewise, a variety of craft projects. But the lovely jeweled elephant? A keeper. (It occurs to me: perhaps I should fashion a stopper and have my ashes put in it!) I have all of my mother’s rhinestone jewelry, too — some quite attractive. I was a great fan of all things sparkly as a kid. I still am.

  37. My childhood in the 60’s wasn’t a lot different but somehow I wasn’t able to establish those reassuring routines in my family. I still love crushed pineapple and cottage cheese, though! How I wish I’d had an aunt like yours. I’m looking forward to learning more of her.

    1. Crushed pineapple and cottage cheese still make a fine lunch for me, too. Here’s an interesting side note about Aunt T. On September 11, 2001, my uncle had died, but she still was living in Manhattan, on West 16th. I was on my way to work, but had dallied long enough that I saw events on tv. When I tried to call her, I actually got through. She’d been taking a walk that morning, and had still been outside when it happened. She knew something awful had taken place, but hadn’t yet figured it all out. I was so glad to have gotten through to her, and to know that she was safe — when so many others weren’t.

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