I had an Aunt Margie - "Big Aunt Margie". Big Aunt Margie because her and my Mom's brother - my uncle, was also married to a Margie who was shorter, hence "Big Aunt Margie". She was tall, sort of statuesque. Aunt Margie spent her life with undiagnosed mental illness(es) until recent years. She just passed away about a week shy of her 83rd birthday which would have been today. The facts about Aunt Margie's illnesses are somewhat nebulous. Fact seems a bit ironic a word when used in describing Aunt Margie. Facts were not important - dreams were. Here's what I remember about her.
She would come to visit us at our home. She would arrive by bus to our town and get off and ask children playing in the street "Do you know where the "Lampshade" family lives?" One would think she would come armed with our address, one would be wrong. Not to worry, she was always led to us. She would arrive looking to my child's eyes like a movie star from another era - almost the silent era. Here it was the 1960's/early 70's, and Aunt Margie would still wear her hair longish with "bologna curls" and a silk headband. Simply dressed but just so. Her nails were always done nicely. Not too long and she polished them with a white pearlish polish. She would tell me the proper way to cut and file my nails, still remember that to this day. Also remember her sparkling blue eyes with her dark hair. The thing that was best about her was that she actually sat and listened to and talked with us children. When relatives came to visit in my house, the kids were sent packing after being able to have a little of the sweet treats while hanging on the words of the elders and trying to get one in edgewise. With Aunt Margie, I could be wrong, but I believe she preferred the time talking with us kids - we indulged her stories, actually encouraged them. She would laugh and say "Oh Gina-belle tell me what monkeyshines you've been up to!" We would laugh - a little at her, but mostly with her.
Yes what drew us to her most were those stories - or the promises. I'm going to take you on the bus to New York and we'll visit museums! Something about life sized dolls and FAO Schwarz. Well, I am sure she meant that she dreamed of taking us. Truth is those dreams worked nicely for us as we didn't really care to separate the fact from the fiction. Yes, she would recount her trips to museums and fill my sister and I with awe at the visuals of their contents. I remember her being enamored of The Fricke Collection housed in a mansion formerly owned by one Mr. Fricke, a mansion that was built "to make Carnegie's place look like a miner's shack". Truth is she lived in one room of a boarding house and spent periods where she wouldn't answer the door or talk to anyone. She didn't have a telephone. She was the 2nd oldest of my mom's big Irish family (actually the third counting a sister Elizabeth who died as an infant). It didn't seem that they always had much patience for Aunt Margie's monkeyshines throughout their lives, but they tried, particularly my Uncle. Finally her "golden years" saw her at long last getting her own apartment in a senior center with views of the very city in which she may or may not have visited every museum along Fifth Avenue. No matter, this was a fine backdrop for those dreams.
My sister and I once shared an apartment and one Thanksgiving played host to Aunt Margie and our youngest sister and her husband, Fran (or Frank as he became known that day). Aunt Margie was very astute, sharp as a tack - remembered everybody's birthday, but kept calling him Frank. As I look back, I believe she may have seen through "Frank's" monkeyshines and was calling him this on purpose. Aunt Margie loved to take in your whole essence. That day, she sat on my bed looking at my jewelry as the turkey cooked in the oven and suddenly but gently rolled off onto the flokati rug on the floor. We were all laughing (as it had happened so unexpectedly and well, gracefully), but this time definitely with her. "Oh Gina-belle, time for a new mattress!"
Anyway, I look back on their generation - my Aunt Margie had she been properly medicated may have had a chance for a life lived a bit more purposefully. A hard knock life for sure as it were. She lived her days out on disability and I'm sure disappointed by the current batch of movie star mags that she was purportedly obsessed with in her youth. Those were the days of movie stars!
I did not attend the funeral - it was done all in one shot (so to speak). Viewing and mass of Christian Burial to follow then off to the cemetery. Being Jewish now, the whole thing is rather uncomfortable for me - it is verboten to view a dead person and I agree whole heartedly with this. I prefer to pay my respects to Aunt Margie this way. Let the person be buried and sit around for the week after and tell great stories and eat cake. And talk about museums and dreams.
...maybe finally visit the Fricke Collection.