When my grandmother was sick, too ill to remember me or really to even know me at all between one visit and the next, it was Aunt Lottie who fussed over how tall I’d grown or how old I’d gotten, who was eager to hear about what I’d accomplished and express concern for my health or struggles, and even gave me small gifts to mark my special occasions growing up. It was Aunt Lottie who helped me find just the right necklace to wear with my senior prom dress, sitting around the dining room table on the hill, and Aunt Lottie for whom, as her namesake, I always tried to look my best, even when I didn’t care enough to make the effort for myself or anyone else.
It was Aunt Lottie who, when I brought my boyfriend home for the first time, sat him down at the kitchen table at Cousin Bobby’s and alternated between stuffing him with good food and interrogating him, to be certain of his character. Aunt Lottie presided over my bridal shower, and gifted me with a token of my grandmother’s—a forgotten handkerchief she’d kept all those years, so I would have something of hers to carry with me on my wedding day. And it was Aunt Lottie who, while everyone else told me how lucky I
was to have my husband, instead told Adam (her handsome viking) how lucky he
was to have me
, enjoining him, always, to take good care of me.
Aunt Lottie had a sharp tongue, and wielded it like a knife, at times. She was outspoken and critical in her opinions, never hesitating to tell us how it was or if we were doing something wrong, something she disliked. But as a result, winning her praise—a compliment instead of a well-meant critique—was basically the highest honor you could hope to achieve. I think her example, not necessarily of criticism, but the fearlessness with which she always spoke her mind, influenced all of us, gave us permission in our own lives and relationships to be (perhaps in my own case even recklessly) forthright.
And while in her last years, it may not have been so clear, Aunt Lottie loved us. Loved the family over which she presided as matriarch, and took an avid interest in all our lives. Loved when the separate branches of our family tree recombined, and wanted desperately for us to share the closeness she had with her cousins—even going so far, once, at Uncle Lewis’s funeral, I think, to grab me by the arm and tow me across the room, exasperated by the fact that we (myself and my siblings who were present) weren’t properly intermingling with her grandchildren, determined that we should be made
It’s been in that spirit, knowing how important those family gatherings were to Aunt Lottie, that I have always done my best to come home. That I found a way, with the help of my family, to be there for her funeral. And maybe I haven’t always been great at mingling with everyone, but I’ve tried to do my best to be open, to be inclusive when the opportunity was presented, and to keep Aunt Lottie’s admonishment, that day, in my mind.
We’re family, Carosellas and Wincowskis, both. Pasquarellis and Trolios and branches I don’t even know. We’re family, and for my part, in honor of Aunt Lottie, I want you to know—my door is always open, my table will always have an extra place and room for more chairs to be squeezed in, and no matter how far we drift in this life, you will all, always and forever, be welcome in my heart, hearth, and home.
Amazon | Barnes&Noble
Amazon | Barnes&Noble