Tuesday, December 11, 2007

My Aunt Vera

I dreamt of my Aunt Vera last night. Although she died when I was about 15 or 16, I have such fond memories of her and I think of her often. She was my fathers older sister and after their mother died when my father was 9 years old, she and my Aunt Celia raised him. Vera's name was actually Veronica but I didn't know that until her death. My Aunt Celia, whose name was actually Cecilia (her mother's middle name) died just last year at 84. One of my middle names is Cecelia, which was spelled incorrectly by my father when I was born - he was always bad at spelling! I kinda like the fact that's it's different, just like me.

My Aunt Vera and her husband, Uncle Charlie, and their kids lived in Burrillville on sort of a farm. It was always the best time when we went for a visit. Their oldest son was Charlie Jr., who, sadly, died of a heart attack when he was 16 years old. Next was Maureen, who was so brilliant that she was hard to figure out. In her 20's Maureen became schizophrenic and joined the Moonies. She died under mysterious circumstances a few years ago. Then there is Albert, who at a very young age fell down the cellar stairs and became epileptic. He still lives in the house. Next was Cathy, who was in leg braces and/or crutches most of her young life because of one leg being shorter than the other. She now lives in Norway with her husband and kids. The youngest is Eileen, who other than a voice that is so deep it scares you, seems to be as normal as any of us.

But when we were kids, none of that mattered. We ran around in their yard playing games and they had all these cement walks to the different outbuildings so it was fun to play on them. I remember riding a bike, roller skating and just hopping from one cement pad to another. Of the many buildings on their property, there was an outhouse that we kids were forced to use. It was a three seater, which always cracked me up, because who, exactly, would want someone sitting next to you when you were doing your business!

They had a building that was called a summer house - it was one big room inside with a huge fieldstone fireplace in the back corner. The entire front and sides were screened with wooden covers which were propped up with boards on the outside when the building was being used. When not in use, the boards were closed down over the windows. The sides and front had window seats with cushions, which, in the hot summer was a good place to sleep. Along the back wall was a kitchen! All the meals were prepared there when they had company. In the middle of the room were long tables and chairs where we all ate. We had some great meals there, including "dynamites" a northern RI term for sloppy joes.

Along the back of their yard was a barn where they raised sheep. That was probably the building that started my love of barns. It was a small barn with a loft. Inside on the right were several stalls that housed the sheep. Feeding the sheep was my favorite thing to do when visiting them. They were soft and cute and I liked their smell. We fed them out of a really big burlap bag that was full of pastries!! There were all kinds of different pastries and I knew they bought them as "day old", but I never understood why the sheep ate pastries in addition to the hay. I guess this will be a mystery unless I see one of my cousins, which is extremely unlikely. Needless to say, we all ate the pastries while feeding the sheep.

The last building they had on their farm was a chicken coop. They had lots of chickens and if we got their early enough we got to see my Aunt Vera going out there and chopping off the heads of one or two for our dinner later in the day. It is true that chickens run around after their heads have been chopped off and it's pretty interesting as well as gruesome to watch. My favorite part of the chickens were the baby chicks and getting the eggs.

My Aunt Vera was a lovely and beautiful woman, inside and out. Even though she had a tough life, she was sweet and kind to everyone she ever met and was a very good mother. She was fiercely loyal to her kids and was devastated when her son died. It was only a few years later that she died of, I believe, the same heart problem that took her son.

I got along pretty well with Cathy, so I would sleep over their house from time to time. Because of that I knew my Aunt much better than my brothers and sister. She was also friends with Mrs. Spellman, the secretary at the elementary school that I went to, so I would often see her while at school, which surprised me the first time I saw her and delighted me each and every time after.

I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to know and love her. I have missed her dearly since her death and love that she visits me in my dreams.

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