Memory Jog

It's funny how things come to you.  The other day I flashed back to when I was a kid and spending time with a woman who I called "Aunt" Winnie.  (She wasn't a blood relative, but you know what I mean)  This came about as I was listened to a sermon about bread. That may sound strange but the particular passage that was being used (John 6:35, 41-51) mentions a lot!  (Check it out for yourself!) The priest spoke in great length about bread, particularly how it was important at his family's table. He reflected back on a restaurant where he went with his family called The Afton.  When he mentioned that restaurant a light just went off in the back of my head.  I remembered that I had gone to the same restaurant several times; always (only) with "Aunt" Winnie. I hadn't thought about that in years because wasn't a restaurant that was really close by to my home.  (And it turns out it no longer exists...replaced by a bank.  Ugh!) Then he mentioned the restaurant's sticky buns memories from 30 or more years ago came flooding back.

 I'm probably one of the youngest people who remembers Winnie.  (Not that I'm young.) She taught piano so maybe there are some younger who have vague recollections, but I'm betting most of them have blotted that time out of their minds.  Winnie wasn't a bad person, but she was a selfish person.  I don't say that to be mean, I say it because I see it as true and a commentary on what you might NOT want your life to be.

 What do I know about Winnie?  Not much.  I had to search for her obituary from 2005 and it wasn't an easy find.  But then Winnie wasn't an easy person.  Her obituary (which reminded me that she was actually F. Winifred),  was less than one hundred words long and didn't include her date of birth (I'm sure that's what SHE wanted) or any real personal information other than where she had resided and who she had been married to.

 What I vaguely know is that she and her husband (who I never really knew; I believe he was quite ill during my lifetime) were friends of my maternal grandparents.  I believe they vacationed in Cape Cod at the same hotel for a while.  Was that a result of them living in the same town for a while?  Winnie and her husband (who I believe was an executive at Bell back when it was THE phone company) moved to "more impressive" town and belonged to an exclusive country club.

 Winnie was all about appearance.  Things had to be done the "proper" way (her way).  She wouldn't leave her home until her hair and makeup was done.  She didn't wear pants and certainly never went without panty hose and pumps.  And this was the case even if it was an emergency.  (I say this from experience; there were times when my mother or I would have to rush her to the ENT for an urgent issue, but despite the emergency, she STILL wouldn't go until everything was "just so." She was a woman of the time when everything was done in a certain way. You dressed a certain way you put on your makeup a certain way you didn't had your hair done once a week at the salon. You didn't go out unless you were dressed appropriately. She was very much a stickler for the way things should be done and she was very eager to tell you how things should be done. Her way with the way things should be done and that was that.

 So what does all of this have to do with the restaurant and sticky buns mentioned in the sermon?  When I was a pre-teen or a teen (not sure which, I was in middle school at the time) for some reason I would regularly go out to dinner at The Afton with Winnie.  It was always a Saturday night.  I would, of course, dress up.  (It goes without saying that she was "dressed.")  I think my mom would drop me off at her house with an overnight bag and then Winnie and I would drive from her house to the restaurant in Florham Park.  I don't know why we went there.  It was a good 10 miles away from her house (and further from mine).  I know I didn't rate going to the country club for dinner, but...

 She was a picky eater.  Again, appearances meant EVERYTHING and she was a small, slender woman who was always dressed "appropriately."  I don't recall what we ate, but I do know that she would eat the sticky bun.  She might have even eaten mine or brought it home.  (Due to my allergies I couldn't eat it.)  I don't think the restaurant was particularly expensive, but it fit her bill of acceptable places to dine and as far as I recall, we never ate anywhere else.  I my memory (which has definitely faded), it was a special place. Did she have some sort of tie to this restaurant? Was the place where she and her husband went? I have no idea but it was the only place that we would go. I never thought to ask why I just went.

 After dinner we would go back to her house. And we would watch TV in her little den. I'm really dating myself by saying we would watch The Love Boat and maybe Fantasy Island.  Then we would go upstairs to sleep. I slept in a larger guest room that I think maybe a relative of hers had once stayed in or lived in.   She slept in a very small bedroom across the hall. When I think about it it's really quite odd because it was a large master bedroom suite downstairs that abutted the den. I don't think she ever sleep there. However she did use the dressing room and the bathroom down there when she was getting ready in the mornings.  It was quite a suite with a huge closet full of clothes. (Something I can appreciate now.) They were beautiful clothes. Everything was hung up perfectly and meticulously and dry cleaned and I just can't imagine anyone doing that now, but...

 I believe my mother would pick me up on Sunday after breakfast.  I don't remember much other than that we always had toast with grape jelly.  These Saturday night sleep overs stopped around the time I was in high school.  I'd say it's because as a teen I had a social life, but that's not really true.

 As you might have guessed, she and her husband had no children and that's probably for the best. She he was very rigid and particular.  I think that would have been very difficult for a child. For example she taught piano and she would hold a recital at the end of the school year for her students. She would have 20 or so children from the age of five to maybe 15.  She expected them all to sit quietly in folding chairs and listen to each other play without any fidgeting. What kind of child could do that? She didn't understand children at all, which is probably why she asked me to help her when I was older.  I think the kids were grateful to have me there.

 As you might have guess she was accustomed to living a certain style and unsurprisingly as she reached the end of her life, financially she couldn't maintain that style. It was a bitter reality.   She ended up having to sell her house and moving into a senior facility where she lived her remaining years.

 She died in March of 2005.  I remember it being very cold.  At the time my parents would spend several months in Florida, so I was the one who represented the family.  Prior to the funeral, I spoke to our minister.  We may have belonged to the same church, but I don't recall her ever coming to a service (although her photo was in the church directory). He didn't really know her (did anyone?) and I didn't have much to tell him.  

 There was snow on the ground that day.  There were four of us in attendance.  Her executor, my aunt (my father's sister), the minister and myself.  That was it.  Three of us (my aunt, the minister and myself) drove from the funeral parlor to the cemetery for a very brief service.  That was it.  

 I hadn't really thought about her much since her death. It took the mention of the restaurant The Afton and the sticky buns for all these memories to come back.  I ended up today taking a long walk and going by her house which is in the next town over. I wonder what the people who live there now are like. I saw that there was a soccer net on the lawn and I think about how appalled she'd be to see that. She'd be appalled at much of the world now.  And I think she’d be disappointed that you still can’t put your wet laundry in the dryer and have it come out not just dry, but folded because that’s what she expected.


Popular posts from this blog

As Is

Dear Mom & Dad: Coming to a Close

Where Is My Document & Check?