As a child I had the pleasure of getting to spend time visiting my great-aunt’s house. It was a warm home, nestled sweetly in a large wooded lot; bushes that bloomed with the sweetest flowers adorned the front – as if the house had grown delicately from the garden and it sat as naturally as any other flower. It was its own hidden oasis in a jungle of suburban living and they built it with their own hands; all the blood, sweat and tears shown through every glorious inch of the palace they called home.
The house itself felt warm. Safe. Comforting. It didn’t matter who you were – when you entered the house, you automatically felt at home; as if you had been there for years. The furniture said “take a load off. Relax.” The pictures lining the side tables and mantle screamed “Loving family lives here” and I couldn’t help but feel blessed to be allowed to grace such a beautiful place – but more importantly, I felt blessed to be welcomed in their home, as if I were their own.
It was truly the type of home that dreams are made of. One of my favorite rooms, was the master bath; it was so big, you could dance in it and it had a whirlpool tub large enough to swim in; when I wasn’t resting my head on the comfy, shell shaped pillow that I adored so much. It had a mirror lined with giant lights; the kind I had only ever seen in the old black and white movies. It was the definition of fancy and I couldn’t help but feel like a princess when in it.
Though the bath was lovely, some of my fondest memories took place in the kitchen. From memories of happy faces and laughter at our family gathering for Thanksgiving and Easter to the antics of family games. Of course, I will never forget about the cooking lessons; I will forever remember those flour dusted aprons and the rich aroma of freshly baked, chocolate chip cookies or how the water tank gurgled from time to time, leaving me to jump out of my skinevery now and then.
When ever my aunt baked, I would create my Play-doh treats – it was often the first thing planned for every visit. I’d arrive and quickly retrieve my supplies of play-doh, cookie cutters, plastic knives and one of my aunt’s faithful rolling-pin which felt like one the highest awards one could receive. The simple fact that it was hers, left me dancing on cloud nine. I honestly believed that it’d be mine forever but that’s just the silly fantasies of a day-dreaming child.
That kitchen didn’t just hold memories of baking, it was also where my aunt helped me learn to read. With the use of Dr. Seuss’s book ‘Green eggs and ham’ – I was offered the incentive of receiving my very own breakfast of green eggs and ham – if I could read the book; all by myself. I practiced and practiced; each time filled to the brim with the kind of excitement, only a child could have. I was determined to be ready when that next visit came and though I was nervous, I was prepared.
I remember sitting at the island counter as the sun shown in from the elegant glass doors. I began not-so gracefully as I read through each line. Watching as my uncle cooked what I hoped to-be my reward and as my aunt, encouragingly listened as I fumbled and stumbled through more than my fair share of the story. My rendition was far from perfect but I did it and the pride was clearly written upon their faces. To this day, that memory plays on repeat as I read that same book to my children.
Summers in Florida are the worst time for hanging out in the kitchen; those are the months we could be found splashing in the pool. My aunts home was the place I learned to swim; they placed an oversized shirt on me and in I went, convinced the shirt would help me float. To this day, I’m still not sure if it was the shirt that helped or if it was my trust in them, simply outweighing my fears. Either way, thoughts of her still enter my mind, anytime I find myself floating along like driftwood in the Florida sun.
Now when summer turns to fall and fall turns to winter and the airways fill with the sounds of festive music I’m instantly taken back to a late December night; on a dark winding road, as we traveled along, while gleefully singing all those classic Christmas hits. I can still see the smile on my aunts face as the occasional street light passed over and her sweet voice still echoes in my head as my children begin to discover their own Christmas favorites, on those late-night Christmas-light rides.
Though I only got to spend a handful of years visiting her, I learned a lot in that time. I was taught kindness and courage. I was taught love and compassion. I was taught what trust is and in many ways, how to live. She showed me a love I had never known and those moments are carved into my mind like pictures on stone; etched into the essence ofwho I am. She was the type of women I wish so desperately to be. She was my hero.
she was the glue that held our family together. she was the apple of everyone’s eye. She was truly a woman who can never be replaced; she was blessed with more heart and soul than any person I’ve ever known. She was the beauty in the ugly that was my life. She was the light in the dark and though I didn’t get as much time with her as I would have liked – I got plenty of priceless memories. She was a second mother to me and there isn’t a day in my life that I don’t miss her. Damn you breast-cancer for stealing her away from this world, much too young.