June 26, 2011

Aunt Inez

When I grew up mum had a friend called Inez. Aunt Inez to me. Aunt Inez was almost 20 years older than mum and lived a couple of blocks from our house, just across the street from school. I don't know how mum and she became friends, but since mum was at home I'm sure they must have met at the shop, post office or something. Aunt Inez had become a widow in her mid-40s (just like mum later did too) and the story surrounding her husband's death was rather tragic. Her husband was sea captain and over the year she had travelled with him all over the world and they had lived both in Asia and the US. They had just decided to move back to Sweden and bought a house when he got killed in accident at sea. She was home getting the house ready when a policeman and the vicar one day knocked on the door and delivered the terribly message.

Aunt Inez and her husband never got any children of their own, but Aunt Inez adored children. If they were well-behaved. In her eyes I was a very well-behaved child so she adored me and I adored her. Over the years I always knew that if something happened and mum wasn’t home Aunt Inez would take care of me.

I loved spending time at her house. A house filled with treasures from their travels. Masks from Africa, dolls from Japan, strange music instruments from Persia, but most of all she had a study. A room filled with bookshelves, two big armchairs and a desk by the window, where Aunt Inez wrote all her letters. This was long before emails and the Internet. She also had stacks and stacks of old glossy magazines that I could spend hours going through. Sometimes she would be working at her desk and sometimes reading herself, and then by 4 o'clock it was time for tea and cake. Royal Blend that she bought directly from Fortnum & Mason. Twice a year she got a parcel with tea and biscuits delivered.

Besides teaching me the lovely ritual of afternoon tea Aunt Inez also thought me how to do a French manicure, to use rosewater on my cuticles, how to use old fashion big curlers and that you can never go wrong wearing pearls. She was a lady in her pleated skirt, jumper, black pumps, the classic pageboy hairstyle and of course the pearls. In the summer she wore chiffon scarves and big Jackie O sun glasses.

She adored my father as well, her tall, dark and handsome handyman that helped her with the house, garden and car when needed. When he got ill she was devastated but still she became my safe haven all through his illness.

When I went to school in the England and the US we wrote long letters to each other and she probably knew more what was going on with me than my own mum. She was very proud of my adventures and always cheering me on saying that I could become whatever I wanted. Nothing was going to stop me.

During my last semester at college in Texas, mum called me one day to tell me that Aunt Inez had become ill with cancer. I was in Texas and she was in Sweden and there was nothing I could do. When I got home that summer I went to see her and she was a very ill woman. It was devastating. It had only been 6 years since dad died of cancer and it was real hard for me go and visit her. I couldn't take seeing another person that I loved and adored being in so much pain. I sent cards, letter and talked to her on the phone but I didn't go out and see her again.

By October I was living in student flat and she called one day to thank me for the birthday card I had sent her the week before. She was crying and said she missed me. When would I come out and have tea with her? Soon I said, when I'm done with this exam. Just two more weeks. But after that exam there was another one, and another one. Soon it was the new year and February. Reading the newspaper at the Uni library I found her obituary. She had died a week earlier. My dear, dear Aunt Inez had died.

It has been 17 years now and she's a distant memory from my childhood, until a couple of nights of ago. I was just about to fall asleep when I started to think about Aunt Inez. Probably for an hour or so I thought about her and all that time I spent with her. The things we did and talked about. What a true gift it was to have person like her when growing up. I think she would have been proud of me and what I have become. Especially that I wear my pearls with both pride and joy and feel like a lady every time.

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