Sunday, December 12, 2010


My aunt is home from the hospital, happy to be back in her chair next to the window. It is a wet morning in New York City. Outside our windows, the trees are bowing low in the lashing rain. The leaves are almost all blown off their branches, but for the leaves on the tree outside my bedroom window, which is in a corner more protected from the wind. That tree is still a blaze of gold, like sunlight against my window despite the gray skies and rain. The effect is sort of magical. I stayed in bed till very late just looking at it and dozing.

My aunt was more clear in her speech this morning than she has been in a long time. She said, "I love you, dear," and she said, "God gives everyone such problems and hard times but he also gives us a way to get through it and he sends people to help us."

It came out clear and whole, and it reminded me of how full of rabble-rousing life she used to be. My Aunt Winnie never knew the language of defeat. This small, frail woman helped a whole lot of people through their own hard times. She was there for every one of us in the most selfless, take-no-prisoners way. She was the oldest girl of nine and she learned to rally the troops to fight for those she loved and for those who just needed someone like her to stand up for them. Now she needs us. And we are all right there, wanting nothing more than to fight for her, wishing we could do more.

April 6, 1931

That's my aunt's family of origin. My mom is on the immediate left of my grandfather. Aunt Winnie is the girl on the far left, her hand protectively on her younger brother's shoulder. She's only 12 in this picture, but you can already see in her eyes that she is a warrior for love. She has always been that. 

I lived with her for a year when I first moved to New York to go to college. Even after I moved into the dorms, her apartment was my other home. She was then just a little older than I am now. It often seems that the years have evaporated like a mist, and we have to hold fast to our memories. They are the only evidence that what we remember, actually was. 


  1. What a wonderful photo of your family. I absolutely love it. The children are all so beautiful and your Great-Grandparents are so proud of them. And yes, you can definitely see the protective fierceness in your aunt's eyes!

    Your loving words really spoke to my heart as I am fighting to keep my nieces who are 12 and 7 in my life, right now. I have been for the two and a half years since my beloved brother died suddenly at the age of forty-one. Our families were very close before my brother passed but after he died, my SIL turned on me in a way that I never expected and decided to use her children as pawns in an evil game. Right now, we are in the process of suing for visitation. I thought long and hard about filing this suit as it is very atypical for an aunt to file for visitation, but I found out that I do have legal rights under the "Grandparents Right's Law". I decided that I could not allow my beautiful nieces lose anyone else who they love. I just would not be able to look them in the eye someday if I didn't fight for them. I know this is what my brother would have wanted because he also loved my daughters so much. Reading what you wrote about how important your Aunt Winnie is to you, makes me want to fight harder. I want to be there for my nieces in the way that your aunt has been there for you.

    Thank you for sharing your aunt's very wise words. She sounds like such a wonderful woman and you are such a loving niece. That is the type of relationship I hope to have with my dear nieces someday.

    I pray that you aunt continues to heal and regain her strength. You are such a good niece for taking care of her.

  2. I have always said that an aunt can be one of the most valuable people in a child's life. Obviously, this was true in your family.
    And what a beautiful family! How did that mama do it? I hope there were aunts in HER life to help out.

  3. Debra W, I'm so sorry to hear about the rift with your SIL. It's so sad how families sometimes fall apart when one member passes on. I wish you all the best in maintaining loving contact with your beloved nieces.

    Ms. Moon, in our family, the six aunts are our power center! they are the sun around which we all revolve. they are all over 80 years old now, and we are a little shaky facing up to the fact that they will one day not be here. Their bond has been an amazing thing to witness close up. As for my grandmother, well, those girls got their power from an awesome source! we still tell stories of her, even those of us who were born after she died. yes, aunts are beings with special powers in our family.

  4. There's so much warmth here on your blog. I came here from the dishwasher and I'm glad I did. What a beautiful family you are.

    Deirdre (21k)

  5. Deirdre, so glad you came! I hope you come back and visit often. I really enjoyed finding your blog, too.