24 March 2006
meet great aunt louraine, one of my favorite women in the world. too many stories are running through my mind. I feel like I need more time to think it through, more time to assemble carefully chosen words. but she turned 93 this past monday and I want to share her marvelousness with all-- a big heaping bowlful of auntie marvelousness for everyone, I say.
I am convinced it's no accident that she was born on the first day of spring-- she's fresh air and tiny purple flowers and daffodils and birdies that go tweet tweet tweet. warning: everything I write is going to sound corny like this because really, that's who she is-- not at all corny, but sweeter than sweet with a mammoth-sized heart. but also: smart, feisty and wickedly funny.
everyone in the family loves aunt louraine, she's easily the favorite. (and just for the record, she's the same aunt that had the unbelievable vintage gift wrap stash in her basement and the subject of this collage). she sings funny little songs from way back in the day and continues to work her (still gorgeous) looks. yearly family gatherings found her huddled in the kitchen with my grandma, wearing the most adorable aprons ever (some of which ava and I now wear when we bake). the two sisters fussed together over turkey, mashed potatoes, dumplings, green beans and fruit-filled pies. heaven forbid anyone should go hungry. at the end of the day, all of us packed the trunks of our cars with plates and plates of leftovers (meticulously wrapped in foil) and bags full of groceries she'd bought at the A&P before coming to visit us. these brown paper bags overflowing with boxes of little debbie cakes, potato chips, sugary cereals and various canned goods had my brothers and I drooling all the way home.
but my most cherished memories are the trips we took to visit her and uncle silas when I was a teenager. my mom and I spent anywhere from a couple of days to a week taking turns sleeping on the floor and couch of their tiny little home. days spent playing game after game of wahoo!, hitting up the occasional yard sale and roaming the aisles of wal-mart. always donuts from the local bakery for breakfast, always fresh juice in the fridge. she loved to ask me about my boyfriends and the latest styles and trends. auntie also had a cute little thing for david letterman and each night we would listen to her talk to the TV: "oh, david!" she'd say and shake her head when she thought one of his jokes was a little too colorful or mean-spirited. she worried about me and my sun-loving ways, lectured me on the dangers of the rays. begged me to wear sunscreen while I covered myself in baby oil and laid out on a towel in their backyard. silly 16 year-old me, thinking how kookoo that sounded. ah, but she was right (and I will always love the sun but now slather myself in SPF every chance I get and think of her each time). uncle silas had a quirky fear of house fires and would never let me plug in my curling iron or hairdryer (which, in the eyes of a teenager, is tantamount to disaster). but when uncle sie left to play pool, she'd hurriedly whisper to me to plug them all in. she loved to spoil me and my mom, loved to take us to 'the oaks' (white oaks was a mall in springfield, illinois-- thirty minutes from the small town where they lived). we would pile into their old van and listen to auntie and uncle silas go back and forth with each other all the way there, all the way back. always ate at the same buffet (early bird, of course), always stopped at J.T.'s (this was her name for t. j. maxx), where she insisted we each pick out a 'fragrance'. aunt louraine is known for her love of 'fragrance', as in: perfume, cologne, spray, splash, lotion, creme, powder, you name it. a recent clean-out of her tiny home uncovered boxes and boxes of unopened 'fragrances'. also, tubes of lipstick, eyeshadows and blush, night cremes, towels in bright pink and coral colors and floral-printed sheet sets, most of it unused. saving it for guests or to give as gifts, I suppose. she was always thinking of everyone else.
oh, there are so many stories. I can't begin to tell them all. a fascinating life lived long before we all came along, I can only imagine. I hear pieces here and there from various family members and try to put them all together in a way that will tell her story with humor and honor but it just doesn't do her justice. another day, I guess-- when I feel a little more worthy of taking it on. she's still living, though not in her own home. she lost the bottom part of her legs several years ago and it pains me to say that she has been in a nursing home ever since. she lost her husband (aka uncle silas) a couple of years ago and still, a vibrant spirit remains. not quite as bright as it once was, but still there. I visit her whenever I can, send cards and photos and pictures that ava has drawn as much as possible but it never feels like enough. my mom tells me that auntie gets so bored sometimes in that nursing home bed that she often counts the ceiling tiles to help pass the time. and my heart just sinks. but then my mom tells me about something funny she said or how she occasionally flirts with someone or sings one of her little songs and I can only hope to be so young at heart when I am 93.
spring is here and she's everywhere I look. happy spring, everyone.
and in the spirit of all things marvelous and youthful, more photobooth fridayness:
the whole self
sewn with gold threads
(and also-- a project that I am head-over-heels in love with by odile marchoul: she's been taking shots of herself in the same photobooth for six years now. wowwowwow.)