They know you well enough to care and kid but not well enough to have great insight into your daily life. In our family there were a few who were also good for a laugh or two and one who’s home was a story book for me.
Most of my great aunt tales come from my father’s side of the family because they were a big part of my life. Aunt Mable was the wife of my grandmother’s younger brother. She was a kind hearted woman but sometimes her mouth didn’t know that. As a child I dreaded visits with Aunt Mabe and Uncle Les because she always pinched my cheek and had to look to see who I looked like. I still remember standing in front of the mirror in our hallway crying my eyes out when I was about three. My Dad asked what was wrong and my purturbed response was, “I may look like my Daddy but I think I’m prettier. ”
Aunt Jean was the wife of another brother and I loved to go to parties at her home. She was one of those perfect 50’s housewives who made all sorts of fancy little gifts and goodies and she had a lounge chair in her bedroom which I thought was the height of elegance.
On a farm behind lovely tall trees was Aunt Margaret and Uncle Reg’s home. I only remember being there once. I didn’t know her well but I do recall how upset my mother got about the “Bible thumping”.
Myrtle was my grandmother’s only sister and they were very close. I would often travel to her home in Toronto by bus or car, for events like trousseau teas or just to visit. There was a grandmother clock in the stairwell and a milk door at the back step. Her husband was a man full of wonderful stories and he had a bright warm study at the back of the house with a dictionary on a book stand. He was always learning something new. Aunt Myrtle took it upon herself when I was about five to start me collecting silver and each Christmas and birthday I would get a spoon in the mail.
On my mother’s side great aunts were scarce. My grandmother and all of her mother’s sisters had died of tuberculosis before I was born. There were some stories about Aunt Nellie who lived in a tent by the railway track, winter and summer, until her consumption finally got the better of her. The fresh air was supposed to be a cure but I think it was more likely the death of her.
Family tradition and jokes still recall Aunt Suzie. Suzie was apparently not a fan of doing the dishes or cleaning up after meals and so she would disappear to the outhouse where she would stay until she thought the coast was clear. To this day, now 4 generations away, when someone disappears after dinner they are called “Aunt Suzie”.
There were two wives of my maternal grandmother’s brothers who I did get to know a little. Rose was my mother’s favourite and she welcomed us into her home for many years. Only a few miles from home, her house were we stopped often on our travels. I always loved to be there. She was a generous and happy woman, but I think what I loved most was that my Mother, not a very happy woman, was always in a good mood when she visited Aunt Rose. Another was Aunt Oli. I have no idea what her full name was but she too was fun person to be around though I only met her a couple of times because they lived in the North Dakota.
The other of my mother’s Aunts was Annie, Mom’s father’s sister. My mothers own mother had been hospitalized with TB when Mom was six and Aunt Annie had taken my mother in to raise her for over a year but when she had her own son Mom was sent back to the farm with her father and brothers. Still they were very close. Annie was the wife of United Church minister. I always remember her home being filled with books. Tables and counter tops were so full that you couldn’t find a spot to put anything down but housework was the least of her worries. She had bazaars to run, meetings to attend and poor children to feed and clothe.
Thanks to Jackie Dinnis for the story which reminded me of these women from my past.