My great aunt, who has always been a great aunt, is celebrating her birthday. She is 101. I sent flowers and friends have baked a cake. I hope, despite advanced Parkinson's, that she will be able to enjoy them.
She is the last of my grandfather's siblings, an elegant, thoughtful, kind soul who loved her family, worked hard, gave back to her community and helped me learn to love books and reading.
Through her generosity, I fell in love with Stuart Little, a wise spider named Charlotte, and many other characters, who, like my family, inspired a range of feelings, ignited imagination and often set me safely free to roam in my head when life beyond the page was chaotic, uncertain or less than wonderful.
My earliest memories of her, like Charlotte's gossamer threads, reveal a woman who was as warm and caring as she was gorgeous and independent. Born during the last pandemic, she was the youngest sister. Book-ended by two brothers, whom she adored, she was also part of an awesome trio of sisters. Self-supporting since her high school graduation, she enjoyed her friends, spent time with parents, used her vacation time to shepherd nieces and nephews about when they came to visit, and loved to go places when she could.
Well into her thirties when her tenure in the Spinster Club came to an end, she was introduced to a handsome press photographer twelve years her senior by her best friend. Thus began a romance which led to a happy thirty-five-year marriage. With the birth of a daughter, her small family was complete and when I showed up less than a year later in very inauspicious circumstances, she was among the first of my maternal extended family to welcome me. She has always been the essence of kindness.