Saturday, April 16, 2011

I cannot believe it has been so long since I posted. A lot going on that I'll address in another posting, but since I cannot be at my aunt's funeral today, I felt the need to write down what I remember about her. Aunt Ruth holds a special place in my heart and always will.

My favorite Aunt Ruth, whom I am named after, passed away this week. I’ve not seen her in several years as my visits to Pointe Mills were infrequent, but I could always depend upon an offer of a cup of coffee and something sweet. I don’t think I could have “inherited” my sweet tooth from her, but she did teach me cool things like dipping cucumber in sugar! Yummy! And to take your “propeller” out of your coffee after you stir in a heaping spoon of sugar – otherwise you may poke your eye out with your first sip! Oh yes, and the crunchy, delicious, sweet, saltiness of scooping up a dollop of soft ice cream from your cone with a potato chip.

Aunt Ruth savored food, as she did life. I cannot remember her being anything but warm and welcoming. When I wasn’t in Mom’s or Gramma’s kitchen, I was in Aunt Ruth’s kitchen. The kitchen was the place we hung out to play cards and just talk away the hours. Since she and my mom are sisters and married brothers, the two families spent a lot of time together at home and at the lake. She was a reassuring presence in my life, even though I didn’t consciously realize it growing up.

It was in Aunt Ruth’s kitchen I watched my cousin Karen learn how to drink without gulping – a lady-like endeavor I have never accomplished myself. I sound like a dockworker chugging a beer when I drink liquids. No dainty quiet sips from me! It was at Aunt Ruth's table where I laughed so hard my sides hurt while Karen was mimicking the “a little dab will do ya” commercial. Why it was funny – I have no idea today, but Aunt Ruth just smiled at the silliness.

It was on Aunt Ruth’s living room floor that Karen taught me how to lay out and mark patterns, cut them out carefully, and make my own clothes. Granted, Gramma taught me my first stitches on her treadle machine, but it was in the safe comfort of Aunt Ruth’s home, with Karen’s quiet guidance, that I learned to sew.

It was in Aunt Ruth’s yard that I learned what family is, even though I didn’t realize how unique the St. John’s Day gatherings were. They were just part of life. Juhannus, a celebration in honor of John the Baptist, is a Finnish holiday initially celebrated on June 24th. In Finland it is now celebrated on the Saturday between June 20th and 26th. I don’t know if it was ever celebrated at any other family home other than Aunt Ruth’s but that’s where it was as long as I could remember. There were Aunts and Great Aunts “everywhere” telling stories, many of which young ears probably should not have been eavesdropping on! Mom and Aunt Ruth had a lot of aunts and they all had very unique personalities! The tables were laden with food and Aunt Ruth’s kitchen was like a sauna from all the goodies she baked on her wood stove. No one was watching their weight as they loaded up plates. I shied away from the green Jello with bananas though! YUCK!! Homemade Finnish "squeaky cheese" - YUM!! What I wouldn’t give to go back in time and quietly listen to the women's stories – I could have learned so much about my heritage and extended family but where/who we came from just doesn't seem important when you are a kid. We are looking forward, not back at that point in our lives.

My Aunt Ruth was the queen of backseat drivers! I don’t remember her ever driving but I do remember her telling my mom, or whoever else who was driving, how to do it better. If there are cars in heaven and St. Peter took her to the where the rest of the family was waiting for her, she was telling him how to drive! She and Dad used to have an ongoing feud about her backseat driving and he was known to pass up a close parking spot just because she told him to park there!

My Aunt Ruth is now with Uncle Hank and the other members of our family who have passed and were waiting there for her to join them. I dearly loved my Aunt Ruth. She was a stable, loving part of my childhood and the first person I went to visit when I went home. I can close my eyes and hear the screen door opening and see her smile. She will bring laughter to heaven!