88 Wonderful Things

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Today is my Aunt Katie’s birthday. Tonight, we’ll celebrate with a good meal, cake and ice cream. This morning, I’m making a list…for her 88 years, of many wonderful things that I happen to know and love about her.

  1. Aunt Katie was born on Beaver Island,
  2. the oldest of the two girls
  3. with four brothers
  4. (one of them was my father), and
  5. was the tiniest, at birth, in her family.
  6. They kept her warm by the wood stove,
  7. and she thrived.
  8. She attended Sunnyside School,
  9. which was next door to her house,
  10. so she would walk home for lunch.
  11. That was especially nice on the day her mother baked bread.
  12. Aunt Katie always loved to read.
  13. In her little bedroom at the top of the stairs, she would read by the light of the moon.
  14. At school recess, the girls played baseball right along with the boys.
  15. The nun played, too.
  16. They climbed Mount Pisgah one day on a class excursion,
  17. and another time traveled together to High Island
  18. where they saw remnants of the Israelite’s gardens, still coming up in rows.
  19. Aunt Katie’s mother died when she was eleven years old.
  20. Sometimes, then, she and her sister, Margaret, walked to their Aunt Lizzie’s house in the mornings, so she could braid their hair.
  21. Her father once bought metal dishes because there had been so much breakage,
  22. and she felt offended at the insult.
  23. She went to high school in town,
  24. and graduated with a smaller class than she had started with
  25. because most of the boys had dropped out.
  26. She worked, then as a waitress,
  27. at a restaurant that sat where the old part of the hardware store is now,
  28. while she waited for her sister to graduate, so they could move to the city together.
  29. She still remembers who the poor tippers were!
  30. She and Margaret shared a basement apartment in Pontiac, when they first left the island.
  31. Aunt Katie worked behind the soda fountain at a drugstore,
  32. until she landed a job in the mail room at Pontiac Motors.
  33. She worked there until she retired,
  34. during which time she often had to train young men to do the job,
  35. and then watch them be promoted before her, because “a man has a family to support.”
  36. The irony was not lost on my Aunt Katie,
  37. who recognized the injustice
  38. but lived with it.
  39. She had her own home, with taxes and expenses just like anyone,
  40. and a car payment,
  41. and she helped others when she could.
  42. She took in her Uncle Joe, and he lived under her roof until he died.
  43. On weekends, Aunt Katie played golf in the summertime,
  44. and was on a bowling league in the winter.
  45. By the time she retired, she had many trophies for both sports.
  46. Sometimes, on Sunday, Aunt Katie would come to visit us.
  47. If we were lucky, she’d bring a treat.
  48. Aunt Katie made the world’s best chocolate chip cookies.
  49. She still does!
  50. One Christmas, she brought “Harvey Wallbanger Cake,” with flavors of orange and rum.
  51. She was my Confirmation sponsor.
  52. On her vacation, Aunt Katie often came to Beaver Island.
  53. She rarely came alone.
  54. She’d pick up a few nieces and nephews to give them a chance to get away.
  55. Often, it was the Evans boys.
  56. One especially hot trip, when traffic was moving slowly, she remembers that all of those long-legged boys were sprawled out, with feet and legs hanging out of the windows!
  57. Once, she brought Brenda and I.
  58. First we got car-sick, then sea-sick, then home-sick. She sent us back, early, with Uncle Henry and Aunt Betty.
  59. Many years later, she gave me a second chance, and brought me on vacation with two of my cousins.
  60. She gave me my first chance to drive a car, here on Beaver Island.Not knowing what the accelerator was (as in “take your foot off the accelerator!”), I drove right into a ditch.
  61. Aunt Katie made a shockingly low wage, through all of her working career,
  62. but she was careful with her earnings, and wise in her investments.
  63. She took many of her nieces and nephews aside, if they showed any inclination or desire in their studies, and offered to pay their way through college.
  64. Several of us accepted loans from her for other reasons.
  65. Aunt Katie was able to retire on schedule…maybe a little ahead of schedule,
  66. and has now been retired longer than she worked,
  67. which was one of her goals.
  68. After retirement, Aunt Katie moved back to the family farm,
  69. where she has made necessary and helpful improvements to the house and grounds.
  70. She worked on the Board of Review for quite a while,
  71. and has always taken an interest in politics, both local and national.
  72. Aunt Katie has visited many areas of the United States
  73. and she has traveled the world!
  74. She keeps up with the news
  75. and knows more about the Dow Jones numbers than I ever will!
  76. She has been active in the church, and – until recently – rarely missed Sunday mass.
  77. She planted a big garden for many years,
  78. and now lets her nephew do the gardening.
  79. She just canned a dozen pints of stewed tomatoes for me!
  80. She still welcomes her many nieces and nephews when they come to visit,
  81. and she opens her home to our friends, Bob and Gary when they are on the island.
  82. Her sister is able to come, too, now and then.
  83. Aunt Katie loves dogs, and usually has one around.
  84. She grumbles about her memory, but it’s better than mine,
  85. and she has a sharp wit.
  86. She is stubborn – a family trait.
  87. her health is not what it once was, but she manages,
  88. and she still enjoys a beer and a bit of conversation.

May your birthday be everything you want it to be! Happy Birthday, Aunt Katie!

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About cindyricksgers

I am an artist. I live on an island in northern Lake Michigan, USA. I have two grown daughters, four strong, smart and handsome grandsons and one beautiful, intelligent and charming granddaughter. I live with two spoiled dogs. I love walking in the woods around my home, reading, writing and playing in my studio.

5 responses »

  1. Oh my dearest aunt Kate!
    I remember all of the wonderful trips with you for summer vacation when I was a younger. I have such fond memories. I’ll never forget everything you have done for my grandma; she is very lucky to have you. Even though grandma doesn’t have the best memory, she always remembers you in conversations. I know she loves you so much as many of us do. Have a very blessed day. I love you
    Paula

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