In case this is your first time reading my slices, here is my focus for the challenge: my fifth graders and I are participating in the Slice of Life Challenge this month, and they're writing memoirs. I thought I'd do the same kind of writing - memory writing - throughout the challenge. I'm going to be writing around photographs and memorabilia.
Aunt Judy, Aunt Jan, Mom
Russell, Kiki, Holly - 1973
I wrote about my older Brandt cousins in a previous slice, so I'm writing about my younger Steponic cousins and Aunt Judy in this one. Russell is a year younger than me, and Kiki (her nickname when she was a kid...her grown-up name is Erika, but it's still hard for me to call her that) is two years younger. Aunt Judy was the middle Deaver sister, my Aunt Jan being the oldest, and my mom the youngest. It's hard to believe Aunt Judy is no longer with us. She passed away about fifteen years ago. My memories of her are strong and good, though, and I'm happy to chronicle a few of them here.
My earliest memories of my Steponic cousins were when we visited them in New Hampshire. Like my other extended family, we visited infrequently because of the distance, but when we did, I loved it. New Hampshire seemed like a different world than Ohio, and I found it fascinating. Speaking of fascinating, my aunt sure was. I thought she had an exotic background - she was an airline stewardess who traveled the world when she was younger, and then she became a missionary later in life. I loved the way she dressed - colorful, flowing outfits, able to be rolled up in her suitcase for her world travels, and pulled out looking fabulous. She loved to laugh, was so intelligent and full of faith. Russell and Erika (I remembered to call her Erika!) got her creativity and giftedness, Erika becoming a technical writer, jewelry artist, and perfumer; Russell is a math teacher in Bahrain - both of them amazing people. I'm so lucky to have family members like them.
Russell and Erika were able to come to some family reunions and celebrations, but not all. Erika lives in San Fransisco and Russell still in Bahrain, so making all the family functions was difficult. They both came to Grandpa and Grandma Deaver's 50th wedding anniversary reunion at my mom and dad's house. They also came to my wedding. I can remember Erika helping with the fabric roses filled with bird seed to throw at us after the ceremony. (Don't ever do this! It HURTS. I was picking bird seed out of my teeth for days - not really, but it seemed like it.) She brought wine from San Francisco, which at the time, seemed very exotic. She was so fun - hanging out with my friends and me. Russell was great at the reception - he danced and twirled around my friend, Annie. It meant so much to have them both there. Erika came to Oma Lou's (Grandma Deaver) 90 birthday celebration. She once again used her creativity to make DVDs of Oma Lou's life, bringing us all to tears. Neither could make it to Aunt Jan's 80th birthday celebration in Virginia, but we all Skyped with Russell for a long time, and Erika sent these amazing favors - clothespins hand-stamped with words and phrases that represented Aunt Jan. We all took a bunch that we can use to hold photographs, quotes, Bible verses, or other special things. We talked to Erika on the phone while we were all sitting around the dinner table paying tribue to my aunt. It was special to have them both there in that way even though it wasn't physically.
We miss Aunt Judy greatly. I especially think my oldest daughter, Libby, would bond with her, just like I think she would Russell and Erika if she had the chance to be in the same place. She just seems to have the same spirit. Ed and I were fortunate enough to meet up with Erika in San Fransisco a few years back. In typical Erika style, she put together a fabulous tour of the city, including a visit to Top of the Mark for champagne - the same place her mother, my Aunt Judy, would go with her stewardess friends when she was in San Francisco. I loved that - we took a moment to remember what an extraordinary woman Aunt Judy was, and what extraordinary children she left behind. I feel privileged to call them my cousins. (I have a few more pictures I wanted to include, but unfortunately, my iPad isn't cooperating on my vacation right now, so some of them got deleted. I will add them as soon as I get home.)