My Aunt Thelma would be 113 years old today. She was a hoot. Barely four feet ten inches tall, she was a dynamo in stylish stilettos and a mink. She lived in New York City and when she came up to the farm, it was like a holiday. She’d arrive on the train in her city finery leaving a trail of Chanel No. 5 in her wake. Aunt Thelma had been married to a very wealthy older man who had left her a widow with three children at a relatively young age. She was a whiz at cutting fabric and her friends on Seventh Avenue kept her supplied with all of the latest styles. She could make absolutely anything without a pattern. She was so tiny she wore size four shoes – just the size all the latest shoe samples came in back then. She was a sight to behold and a wonderful lady. We looked forward to her visits because not only was she an absolute delight, she always came bearing gifts. One of my favorites was a stuffed Pomeranian toy dog she gave me when I was six or seven; I carried that thing everywhere. She always took us shopping in town, such as it was, and gave us all a little “mad money” as she called that we could spend any way we liked. She always wore a dress or a skirt and while she was visiting she always whipped up a new dress for my grandmother out of some fabulous fabric she’d brought along. After we’d moved to Florida, and my grandmother had passed away, Aunt Thelma came to visit and we had a day trip to Venice where we collected sharks teeth at the beach and treated her to her first-ever milkshake. Can you imagine? She was at least seventy at the time – I guess she’d gotten used to egg creams in the city. By then she had married a much younger Merchant Marine who had no clue as to as to her real age or financial status and she aimed to keep it that way. During her visit, I shared my room with her since there were two twin beds. My sister was about six at the time and she ran into my room while Aunt Thelma was getting dressed. The next thing we knew she was barreling into the kitchen to announce to everyone at the breakfast table that Aunt Thelma was wearing a “bra with legs.” My sister had never seen an all-in-one bra and girdle get up. Do they even still make those things? We all had a good laugh, including Aunt Thelma, who wasn’t the least bit embarrassed that my father now knew the status of her undergarments as described by a six-year-old. She and her much younger husband finally retired some years later to a condo in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania to be closer to her children – but “not too close,” as she said. She was ninety-eight when she died and she had a nice, long life. She never said an unkind word about anyone but her eldest daughter’s first husband – but he had it coming. And I never heard anyone say an unkind word about her. I think of her often, especially when I think some outrageous thing I would never say out loud. Her best advice to me was this: “It’s okay to think whatever you want; a lady just never says it out loud.” Happy birthday, Aunt Thelma!
4 years ago