The year is perhaps 1921 (does my mother look to be about four years old and my aunt perhaps two?)
Yesterday I got a beautiful hand written letter from my Aunt M who is in her 90’s. She is the last sibling of four and she told me how much she misses my mom, and their brother and baby sister. Aunt M. was the one who supposedly had a weak heart and a delicate constitution and had to carefully monitor her acivities and never over do things. She married late in life, allowed herself one pregnancy, adopted a baby girl, and opened her home to countless foster children over the years while her own children were growing up. She is a widow who still lives on the same farm (52 years and counting) now with her son and daughter-in-law and 15 year old grandaughter (who incidently shares my mother’s name.) She has outlived a lot of people, surprising no one more than herself. She is a thirteen year survivor of breast cancer, walks with a cane, forgets to turn on her hearing aids, does the crossword puzzle and jumble words in the newspaper every night and never turns down a scrabble game challenge. I remember her as a most serene and calm and loving woman, always smiling and humming, and sweetly, softly, vibrantly alive. Her gorgeous red hair has been snowy white for years and her creamy skin is wrinkled, but anyone who looks can still see how beautiful she is.
In the letter she thanked me for all my Christmas cards over the years, and for the last one which included a picture of my five grandchildren and a little note about each one. She asked me if I remembered the picture she took of me feeding the goose, because she still has it, and still remembers me saying “He likes me!”
In this picture I’m four and my sister is one. I have the same dark hair and no nonsense dutch boy cut that my mother had, and my little sister, being no less gorgeous than Aunt M was so many years ago, has blonde curls that I will covet and envy for a lifetime. I look a little dubious in this shot, but she did become my best friend, even though I’ve admired and envied way more things about her than just her hair over the years.
I regret that my own daughter didn’t grow up with a sister – there is something magical about sisters – but she has an amazing brother and a beautiful (and no less amazing) sister-in-law that she loves more than she likely ever would have loved an actual sibling. It’s a joy to see them together and I hope they both treasure their friendship and their sisterhood for the rest of their lives. You never know who will be left behind with all the memories.