This Valentine's Day is specially dedicated to my aunts. We weren't a large family to start out with (Dad had two sisters--Shirley & Audrey--and Mom had one brother, Doug) and all that I have left from my parents' generation is Mom's brother Doug and his ex-wife, Arlene. Fortunately Dad is still kickin' it in a large way (note to self: when you're sick, be upbeat--Dad's about to hit 84 and he is one happy fella). Dad's oldest sister, Shirley, never married and we found out years ago that her long-time friend and roommate Irma was actually her long-time life partner. Shirley left us about two years ago but in 2004 she sent me a note with a few things she wanted me to have. Upon opening the package I found this old crumbling envelope carefully stuffed with some very, very precious items.
(Everyone lived in Milwaukee, WI. This envelope was mailed in 1908 and check out how it was addressed!)
Two photographs (the other photo is of my dad at about three). Helen Nolte was my paternal grandmother's sister. Their full names were Helen Magdalena Nolte, or as we knew her, "Aunt Nain", and my dad's mom, Meta Natalie Nolte. In this photograph, taken about 1917 at Lake Tichigan, WI, Aunt Nain is second from the left, my grandmother is far right, and my grandfather, George, is the hunky dude. I assume the other two women were friends along for a day of fun at the lake.
The other item, what was originally in the envelope addressed to Miss Helen Nolte in that lovely flowing script, was a valentine. It was sent anonymously and Aunt Shirley didn't know who sent it. I wonder if Nain knew who it was--even so, she remained a spinster all her life (not sure if she didn't marry for the same reason Shirley didn't, though).
It's actually a 3-D valentine--here's what it looks like opened up:
Aunt Shirley's note started out railing against George W. Bush (or as she called him, "Shrub")--she was a dyed-in-the-wool life-long liberal Democrat and used to delight in calling my conservative Republican father after she'd had several glasses of wine and bait him into flying into a rage over things she said (fortunately, they came to terms with each other's quirks and aberrations and were quite close when she passed). And then she wrote this:
"The Valentine enclosed was sent (anonymously and romantically) to my favorite aunt, Aunt Nain. So, I'm sending it to you, my favorite niece. It's one of my few treasures and I know it will mean more to you than anyone I can think of."
That means more to me than all the chocolate, roses and heart-shaped cards in the world. Shirley inspired me to go out on my own and be independent and certainly helped shape my political views. I hope that someday one of my nieces (hopefully all three of them!) will look back and say, "That Aunt Gogie was sure one hell of a great aunt! What a character!"
Happy Valentine's Day to my family on both sides of the aisle!
PS to Mike: I LOVE YOU, HONEY!!