She passed away peacefully.
She was 89 years old.
She was my mom's Godmother.
She threw a mean Christmas party.
I haven't seen her in years. I think the last time was some time before Steve and I were married, and we've been married for almost eleven years now. So I haven't seen her in more than a decade. There are a lot of complicating factors in my family that explain why I haven't seen Aunt Rose in such a long time. None of which are really relevant now.
All of my memories of Aunt Rose are from when I was a child, save for that last visit when I was in my late teens or early twenties. And they are all centered around our yearly Christmas celebration. I remember the layout of her house. I remember a fireplace in the living room that was too warm for the room. I remember the plastic slipcover on the sofa. I remember this ceramic Christmas tree that was so typically cheesey and Polish that I simply loved it. I remember Aunt Rose in the kitchen with all the women in the family, creating a feast that could feed five families. There's something about Polish women who lived through the Depression (at least in my family)...They LOVE to feed their families. I remember the dining room table filled with all sorts of wonderful dishes. The house smelled like ham and turkey, Chanel No. 5 and Aqua Net. I remember Aunt Rose's voice as she told stories and laughed in that loud Polish voice that I have obviously inherited from that side of my family.
But most of all, I remember that even though we only saw her once a year, Aunt Rose ALWAYS knew what was going on with us. She didn't have to ask what we were doing in school, because she always knew. She always asked pointed questions about the school play we were doing, or how our Christmas concert went. I suspect there was some sort of Bermuda-triangle type communication system going on there...Mom to Grandma to Aunt Rose. But however it happened, she made us feel like we weren't once-a-year family...but year-round family. She always welcomed us into her home with a smile and a hug that could squeeze the suffing right out of you.
In our last visit with Aunt Rose, I remember those childhood memories rushing back to me as we sat on that sofa with the plastic slipcover. The house was dark and there was no fire in the fireplace. There was no food on the table, no ceramic Christmas tree, no laughter in the kitchen. The house smelled...empty. I remember wondering if I had imagined it all. And then Aunt Rose met us at the door with a huge smile and that hug the welcomed us. She didn't know all about us anymore, but she was still interested...and interesting.
I understand that Aunt Rose had gotten frail in these last few years. I'm sorry I didn't go to see her at least once so she could meet my family. I know she would have scared Steve to death, much like my Grandma does. There's something about us loud Polish women I don't think he'll ever quite "get." But I'm glad too. I still have those Christmas party memories to hold onto. I can still see and hear Aunt Rose laughing and loud...and full of life.