Monday, March 15, 2010
Remembering Aunt Hon
We were probably around 10 years old, in the 4th grade. Most likely, my best friend C. and I just walked the 1.5 miles from our elementary school along major roadways, something that we did frequently in those days. (The world was a very different place then.) Scrambling up the steep hill dominating my friend's back yard in a typical rowhouse Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood, we knocked on - and then burst through Aunt Hon's kitchen door.
There she was waiting, as if she'd been doing so all day, snack in hand. Expecting us, as if nothing else mattered. Waiting to hear all about our day.
We probably gave her an earful, C. and I, because we could talk. And talk. Talk as only 10 year old girls can talk, and probably about the boys we liked. (The whole reason C. and I became friends in the first place was because we both were in love with the same 4th grade boy, who didn't care for either of us. That didn't stop us, Harriet the Spy style, from getting the scoop on his real girlfriend, Anne Marie. In the process, we decided it would be easier to be friends. Thirty years later, here we are.)
Aunt Hon wasn't my aunt, biologically speaking. She belonged to C., and because Aunt Hon didn't have any children, she was very much devoted to C. and very much vice versa. And because I was C.'s best friend, and because I stayed that way for the past 30 years, she kind of became my Aunt Hon too.
The one word that comes to mind when I think of Aunt Hon - and she would probably laugh at this - is regal. Quietly dignified, always with a smile, never angry. She was tall with jet-black hair, always well-dressed, incredibly generous even to me. She reminded me oh-so-much of my own grandmother, so much that they could have passed for sisters.
Aunt Hon was there for all C.'s family events, of course, and so was I. The confirmation parties, the graduations, a bridal shower, a wedding, a christening. Several years ago, The Husband and I joined them on their family vacation for a few days and Aunt Hon was there still - declining a little but relatively unchanged, asking about our jobs, our twins, genuinely interested to hear what was going on.
And that's why I think Aunt Hon was, to me, such a gift. It's a rare thing, I think, to be so intertwined with another family for three decades, since childhood, to feel compelled to take a vacation day for one of their funerals, as I did today to say goodbye to Aunt Hon. I described this loss on Facebook as losing a piece of one's childhood, because that is what it seems like as time speeds up in one's 40s and loved ones (and loved one's loved ones) disappear with increasingly regularity.
I think having Aunt Hon for 30 years taught me something very important: that as hokey as it sounds, it really does take a village (or even a rowhoused neighborhood in Northeast Philadelphia) to raise a child. It is very much what my friend Stephanie DiCerbo Baffone, aunt extraordinaire, writes about often in her experiences as an aunt - how aunts are truly so very important in our lives because although we may not know it, they make up so many of the building-blocks of ours.
I don't remember what Aunt Hon made me and C. for lunch that day - sandwiches probably, and for some reason I am thinking of watercress. I don't even remember anything else about that three-decades old day, but as fuzzy as it is, it is the defining memory for me of Aunt Hon, the one I will hold on to.
Because as I look back and see us at that small kitchen table, I'm enveloped with a feeling of safety, of being protected and cared for, and I don't see that happening too often today. I'd be horrified if one of my kids spent the afternoon at a friend's relative's house ... with someone I hardly know, eating something they made?!?!
Perhaps that's the real reason I'm sad today, why it feels like with Aunt Hon's passing we have lost something special. In her we have, because she was a truly special person. But it's the fact that with her passing goes a time gone by, of innocence, of a simpler and more trusting world that we will never see again except in the fuzzy Kodachromes of our minds.
copyright 2010 by Melissa, Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.