Last week while we were out of town, the news arrived that my Aunt Esther had died. She was my mother’s older sister.
You might say that Esther was my favorite aunt. Maybe that’s because my mother learned so much from her sister. In a future letter from my mother you’ll read about how Esther taught her how to sew. She was always there when something needed doing. It seems that Esther was always around when the important things happened. The move to New Mexico. Buying the house at 319. I was too young and unaware to understand, but perhaps this is what a big sister just does? I think so.
Those two girls were alike in many ways, but different in just as many. It was clear that they were sisters. The older one was maybe a little smarter, picked up on nuances quicker, and appeared to be a little more successful at most things. Sometimes the successes were trivial, other times wonderful.
Our grand mother was proud of her daughter. The small example I remember clearly is when I learned how to fold a letter to fit into an envelope. Grandma made it clear that it was my Aunt Esther who, while in business school in Fargo, learned the right way to fold a personal or business letter . If you didn’t do it right there would just be a bunch of paper wadded up in the envelope.
One year Esther came through Rochester and demonstrated what I thought was the epitome of success. She had a small van outfitted as a camper, and was traveling across the country visiting friends, usually staying with those friends or family. She was doing what she wanted, on her schedule, with the people she liked. If that’s not successful, I need to get educated.
She also had a talent that surpasses any talent I have. She could make quilts. Grand quilts. Beautiful art quilts. The kind you’d pay hundreds or thousands for in a quilt shop. I was proud of her the year one of her quilts was highlighted in a quilt calendar. Nothing I’ve ever done has been published like that. One year she gave every one of her nieces and nephews a quilt. The workmanship and artistry are superb. I’m struggling to come up with an adjective that’s exuberant enough and still be believable.
Talented wasn’t enough. She was also likable. She made each one of us feel like a favorite. She was one of the people who thought I could do things. She gave me copies of the extensive family tree, allowed me to snag copies of her photo albums, and spent hours explaining the photos to me. What’s really sad, almost depressing, is that when I started this family history blog I could not find the dozen pages of notes to go with the photos.
In some ways I feel I’ve let Esther down by misplacing the notes, but she would still be very happy to have read the stories that are going out every week. Her inspiration is one of the reasons that this blog should be explicitly dedicated to each member of that generation. The events that happened to them in their long or too short lives are the events that help to influence the stories of our lives.