Monday, April 7, 2014

One last time

We had Aunt Winnie's memorial service on Saturday afternoon, and after it, and all the next day, the family crowded into Aunt Winnie's apartment or mine, shoulder to shoulder, knee to knee, telling stories and reminiscing, eating Jamaican Tastee patties (the real deal) and Miss Birdie's bun-and-cheese and Costo lasagna and Angie's rum-soaked black cake, none of it provided by me, all of it brought by my cousins from Virginia and Maryland and Jamaica and Boston and the Bahamas, who had determined that I should not have to feed the hoards, and how grateful I was that they just took control, heating up food and putting it out as more people arrived, washing dishes before I could get to them, taking charge in the bossy way the women and men in my family tend to do. It was perfect. My son drove his grand aunts to the airport then came home and crashed as around him the gathering continued. So many memorable moments, too many to set down here. But at one point late on Saturday night, as 17 of us sat in a circle around Aunt Winnie's living room, sharing memories of her and laughing uproariously at many of them, my cousin Maureen said, "Look at us. Do you realize this is the last time we will all be gathered in this apartment in which Aunt Winnie has lived for 57 years?" We all got pensive then, thinking about how many of us had lived first with Aunt Winnie and Uncle Charlie when we moved to the States; indeed, most of us gathered had at some point called that three-bedroom apartment home. Then my cousin Brian said, "Aunt Winnie has been the Ellis Island of our family," and we all murmured in a kind of wonder, because it felt completely true.


  1. ohh. i have to sigh...such a wonderful, big family. and the portrait of your immediate family group is just perfect--you all look gorgeous. what a send-off, for a matriarch who gave so many of you fledglings the wisdom and skills to fly the nest...

  2. Oh, I feel teary. I hope there were some good moments, moments of release, as I often find when the whole entire family is gathered for a wedding or a memorial. What a tribute to Winnie. And that first photo--the light on all your faces. Beautiful.

  3. Yes. Those photos, especially your family, the gathering, the stories, the wisdom.

    Ellis Island, yes she was, and so much more.

    My family would always lament that if it weren't for weddings and funerals, we'd never all gather in one place, and yet it is always a such good time when we do.

    You honored Aunt Winnie very well.

  4. Just big tears right now. Wracking sobs. Because yes, I know. I understand.
    One woman. An entire generation. Which led to another.
    Oh goodness. Blood and love and joy and tears and bone and breast and laughter and sorrow.
    Your family. Thank you.

  5. I know how sad you and your family are, and I know this is a deep and mournful time, but you have given us such a gift in sharing it -- there's something very universal about the way you've written and photographed your family that reminds us of our own treasures, the places we come from, the people who came before us and who will follow. I hope that as the days and weeks go by, your memories of Aunt Winnie will sustain you and draw you even closer together --

  6. I am teary over a woman I have never met, because of a woman I have never met. But I'm so touched to have heard these stories. Thank you so much for sharing. Your family is extraordinarily ordinary, and the American Dream. You all. You are. I will remember this.

  7. The pictures. The people. The legacy. All of it. Thank you for letting us in. You let them take your picture, too, and I'm glad. You emanate love.

  8. I remember the last time we stayed in my father's apartment, during his funeral. It makes it seem like they aren't quite gone.

  9. This seems to me such a perfect celebration of a beautiful soul. Her story reminds me a little of my Mom who was the first to leave her little island home and everyone followed. Everyone in my family has lived with my Mom at one time or another.
    The top picture of your family is the sweetest thing. You all shine with a gorgeous light.
    Bless you always.

  10. Beautiful family, your own and the extended. What a wonderful gathering and honoring of your dear Aunt. May the memories of this weekend with your family buoy you up when you are missing Winnie. Sending love. x0 N2


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