Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Aunt Jean

These are pictures of my Aunt Jean.
She is my mom's younger sister.
She has battled lung cancer and the effects of the cure for the past eighteen months.
She departed this earth yesterday, November 26, 2012.
She was 71 years old.
It is difficult for me to put aunt jean into words.
She knew how to have a good time.
Aunt Jean Having a Good Time!
Michael, myself, Julie, and Aunt Jean
Aunt Jean didn't have any children, and my mother had seven. If the above picture were not quite so blurry, you would probably be able to read the fear and/or frustration that comes with having your house taken over by the noise and needs of small children who do not belong to you.  I have a difficult time remembering much about my childhood, but I remember this trip to Florida to visit aunt Jean and uncle Ron. I remember eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on her front porch after an afternoon of swimming. I remember the hunger, that unique hunger that was only experienced in your single digits after hours of swimming. I remember wearing my two piece swimsuit, the green indoor/outdoor carpet under me, eating my sandwich from a paper plate with my tupperware brand plastic cup full of milk. It was pure childhood bliss.

Sister, Sister
 My mother is a year older than her sister. Their houses are across the street from one another. They were two peas in a pod. They would sit on the back porch, of either house but mostly mom's, and they would drink coffee and smoke fags for hours. Then they would drink wine and smoke fags for hours. They talked and shopped and argued and made up and did all the things that sisters and friends do. And then aunt Jean got sick and mom did all the things that sisters shouldn't have to do, but they do out of the deepest love when there arises the deepest need. It's a tough thing to watch from afar when there is nothing you can do to lighten the load. I am impressed with their sisterhood.

Aunt Pat, Aunt Jean, Gail, Nana, Mom & Me
 When I was 13 years old, we moved to Florida, just a few blocks from Aunt Jean. At first it was hard because she wasn't used to kids. We lived with her while mom shopped for a house. But then we all got used to each other. I remember curling her hair with the curling iron. I remember her giving us special chocolates from England, one at a time! She encouraged me to save money. She would say, 'just $20 from each paycheck, save just $20'. And even though I did not save $20 from each paycheck, her voice was always in the back of my head saying 'just $20 from each paycheck'. She was a saver. She worked hard and she saved money. Her money and what she could buy with her money were important to her. Everyone who knew her knew this about her and some would perhaps think it crude to say, but she told me this herself back in April. She wanted her things to go to someone who would appreciate them as much as she did, who understood their worth. She didn't like the idea of someone possessing her things who did not understand their value. I'm not sure what to say about this, as I struggle always to disentangle myself from material items, while at the same time long for pieces of myself and those who came before me to pass down to my daughters. As if my grandmother's china can hold the spirit of my grandmother in a teacup and saucer. Yet, when I hold the teacup in my hands and put it to my lips, knowing that she did this same act, it feels sacred to me. So what is the worth of a housecoat that can feel like a hug from someone who isn't there anymore? What is the value of looking up on the wall and seeing a crucifix that you know someone you loved looked upon every day of their life?
the Butler's way back in the day

 This is aunt Jean's immediate family. Her mum and dad, her two sisters and her younger brother. Don't they all look rather hip? I especially love my mom's look, there on the right. She reminds me of Samantha Steven's twin sister on Bewitched. So beautiful.
Uncle Ron & Aunt Jean
When I see old pictures of Uncle Ron and Aunt Jean, I think they must have led a pretty wild life in their younger days. They are always laughing, smiling, partying it up. Uncle Ron died about 15 years ago. Aunt Jean never even dated again, as far as I know. She lost a little bit of her sunshine when she lost him. After he died, I would dream about him occasionally. I would always tell her about the dream. I think she liked that. It felt like I had a nice visit with him. In the dream, I knew he was dead, but he would just come and tell me he was doing alright, not to worry. It was really nice. I hope I get to see Aunt Jean in my dreams. I hope they are together and they pop over to my dream to tell me they are doing alright...partying it up.

Peace Out
Susan Jean

Saturday, November 24, 2012


People ask me 'how are you doing?' and they say it in that sincere way that means 'I know you haven't been doing well, so how are you doooinngg?' and I smile and say I'm good, how are you doing? and they ask their question again, 'yea, but how are you really doing?' and I have to say 'really, i'm doing great'.  It's always the same little dance. and when i stop to think about it, it's strange that its always the same rhythym.

I was looking at some pics on facebook this morning and there was a really good one of my brother and his wife and I thought 'I saw him in August, in Tennessee'. This thought got me to thinking about my trip to Tennessee and I suddenly realized how much better I feel now than I did only three months ago. I have tons more energy, I don't feel so creaky in my hips; I have all day energy now!

I had to stop and meditate before the rest of the house wakes up.

Today's centering thought was about letting go of trying to arrange your life. Let go of the need to be right all the time, or to convince others of your way of thinking. We're not just talking religion and politics here; but the everyday stuff. I am going to try really freakin' hard today to live it. Wish me luck.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving and Harold's in the Oven

Harold is IN the OVEN! Wooo!
When my littlest was teeny tiny she LOVED to be in the kitchen with me. She has helped me with every Thanksgiving turkey since she was three years old!

here she is at 5
Isn't she adorable with her little apron? Her aunt bought that for her and she wore it out. I have it tucked away in a chest with other cherished items that she has temporarily outgrown. I know when she is older she will be glad to get them all back.

Every year I do the same turkey recipe. Wolfgang Puck's Brine Roasted Turkey. It turns out the perfect turkey, EVERY time. And after eleven years of not so good turkeys, it is a real treat.

My little one was perfect for helping me because her little hands could easily fit between the skin and the tender breast meat. She could shove that sage butter under that skin like nobody's business. Then I would drizzle the olive oil on top and she would massage the John, Tom, or Harold (yes, we have to name them first), like he had booked an hour at Massage Envy. She says 'It's my favorite part'. But she says every part is her favorite part ;)

Just now we were in the kitchen together, I was chopping the garlic and she had just started chopping the sage for the butter when the room instantly smelled like Thanksgiving and Christmas all rolled in to one. I looked over my shoulder at her and there she was, as tall as I, using the big-girl knife, and smelling like a holiday. The past eight Thanksgiving mornings flashed before my eyes and I burned another memory right into my spirit. The special place where you keep all the very best ones. And I am so thankful.

She's gone back to bed for now. She will help me again in a few hours with the Best Damn Dressing ITW, and the potatoes, green beans, sweet potato casserole, and everything else. And everyone else will be up and music will be playing and we will be laughing and I will stress a little and they will make me laugh again and it will be a great day. But there is something special, almost sacred, about preparing the turkey with my youngest and getting it in the oven in the quiet of the morning.

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving; and remember that giving thanks can be done every day, with or without a Harold!

Peace and love,