If you had asked me to describe my Aunt Eva when I was fifteen, the answer would’ve been much different than the one I would give now. When I was fifteen, knowing that Uncle Dan’s family was coming for dinner was enough to give me a bad case of nerves. Something about Aunt Eva made me want to shoot for the highest star and appear smart and intelligent; only, there was no fooling her, so filled with defeat, I would accept that I was me no matter who was coming and would help clean, polish, and shine everything in the house along with everyone else.
When Aunt Eva would enter a room, usually the first thing I would notice was her perfume. She wore it strong and often. I often wondered if she did it accidentally like I did when I would try for a dab behind the ear and end up with a big splash or if she really wanted it that strong. I have a vague memory of someone saying that Aunt Eva thought if a little smelled good, why not a whole lot?
Almost every visit I would be asked the dreaded question: “What do you want to do when you grow up?” If only I knew. That was what made me so frustrated. I used to think she asked me that because of my duh-headed expression that surely must’ve been stuck on my face. I think she wanted me to aspire to something but I probably let her down every time, as I would mumble some pathetic answer. At fifteen, I was concerned with what next fun thing would be happening, not a college degree.
Visits to Aunt Eva’s house were wonderments. She always had big, beautiful gardens and flowerbeds surrounding huge maple trees. It seemed like the flowers were always cherry red. I remember one fall helping her rake together huge piles of maple leaves and then being invited to jump into those crunchy, red leaves.
Inside, her house was filled with all sorts of interesting things to look at. There were a lot of houseplants in the living room just like my mom’s, but it seemed like about ten times as many. She had little collections of dishes here and there with a jolly silk flower poked into an odd vase or two. Everything was squeaky clean. A sign in her bathroom, above the toilet read: “If you sprinkle when you tinkle…[I can’t remember the rest], something about putting the seat down when you are finished. I was always filled with awe at the boldness of that sign.
Aunt Eva would serve our big families altogether at a table stretched out long and filled to it’s capacity with all kinds of things, from pickled beets and deviled eggs to mashed potatoes and meatloaf. When we arrived to eat a meal, She would be in the kitchen wearing a pretty, calico apron tied securely around her waist and then she and mom would work as a team both knowing what needed to be done with little or no discussion on what they were doing.
My Aunt Eva died when I was nineteen or twenty. By that time, I had grown to appreciate her pointed, smart questions. I wish I‘d asked her a few of my own. I wonder what kind of books she read. What were her interest? Her questions showed she cared about the next generation and what they were thinking. I know she was an intelligent woman whom I would’ve found some practical wisdom in had I been given the opportunity. I hope if I die as young as she did; I can leave behind the marks she left on me: Aspire to be something, always be clean and smell good, and keep asking questions.
I added the picture because these colbalt blue salt and pepper set came from Aunt Eva. The bowls are from mom.