Thursday, July 8, 2010

An Heirloom

It seems to me that every girl with a happy childhood has a favorite aunt. Lucky me: I had two.

There's just nothing like a mom who isn't yours but who loves you like she is. She can be all the best things: the one who says yes, the one who gives more, the one who laughs loudest, the one who makes everything more fun for a child, more enticing to a teenager, and more classy to an adult.

My aunts set the standard high, and they defined the essence of being a favorite aunt.

My mom and her sisters (these blessed aunts of mine) had their own favorite aunt: Aunt Ruth. Our generation of the family tree is rooted in the stories of Aunt Ruth from New York City. She flew into town once a year with gifts for everyone. She smoked cigarettes when that's what only the most elegant women chose to do. She sent the best birthday cards but never signed her name, because of course everyone knew who sent them. She nicknamed my mom 'Miss Jones,' which I think is perhaps the most charming nickname a little girl can have. She dressed in a business suit for her airline flights, she told fascinating stories that held the family spellbound, and she captured their hearts with her elusive grandeur.

I only have a handful of my own memories of her, as she was very old and small by the time I was born. I remember her white hair in a bun and her cigarette in her hand, but more than anything, I remember that she bought me books.

Even in her later years, when she was too frail to present them herself, she sent them on her behalf. She gave me classics: The Pied Piper. Heidi. Little Women. A Children's Garden of Favorites.

I didn't know her well, but I captured a bit of her in my heart: after all, she gave me books.

Well, just this week, my mom happened onto a hidden treasure in her basement. I am a die-hard lover of used books. Dog-eared, tattered, and loved - all the better. Look what she found...

It's Aunt Ruth's copy of Gone With the Wind. Dog-eared, tattered, and loved.

And the hand-written date on the inside: 1938.

On the inside cover, she pasted newspaper clippings from the movie that swept the nation, when her beloved characters took on real life on the silver screen.

Aunt Ruth received this book when she was nearly 31.
Interestingly, so have I.

Thank you, Aunt Ruth, for giving me books.


Polly said...

I loved reading this, Tricia. As one of Aunt Ruth's three nieces who benefited from her very intentional gifts of books for every birthday and Christmas of my childhood, I know she would be quite happy to know that yet another generation of Carnahan girls has caught her love of books, which she always called "my dear friends, you know."

Maybe that will make up for my not following through on her dream that I would become a doctor...

my3boys said...

I have the same vase which doesn't surprise me since we had the same couches. After 11 years of little boys bouncing on them those couches were in shreds. This time I bought leather (for durability and easy clean up)with the extra strong frame in case they last long enough for teenagers to be tackling their brothers onto them. My guess is your couches are still lovely. ;)

Kerri said...

I don't tell you often enough (if I ever have???) how very, VERY much I appreciate your blog, Tricia; those profoundly moving, intimate, always-appropriate glimpses into the very heart of you and your life. What a treat. Don't stop, ok? Love you, friend, and can't wait to see you when the time is right.