In the morning after Thomas and Annamarie have opened their gifts and we have eaten our traditional Christmas cinnamon rolls, we will pack up the car and head to my parents' house in North Carolina. A trip to Grammy and Papa's is always loads o' fun, but we were especially looking forward to this one because Aunt Betty and Uncle Bill, who live in Georgia, were going to be there. Unfortunately Bill has been very sick due to complications of diabetes, and they aren't going to be able to make the drive after all.
Aunt Betty is my Dad's sister, and she never had children of her own, having married Bill at about the age I am now. My brothers and I adored Aunt Betty when we were kids (and still do). She worked for an airline and did a lot of traveling to places which seemed very exotic to us, like the time she took my grandparents on a very dignified trip to Israel.
My own first trip on an airplane was going from Charlotte to Atlanta with my Mamaw and Papaw to visit Aunt Betty. As pass riders, we were required to dress up to fly, which made the whole experience just that much more exciting.
My mom later worked for the same airline, and Aunt Betty would sometimes travel with us when my workaholic dad couldn't get away. Here we are in New York when I was around 14 years old, in this photo that was clearly taken by my youngest brother. Good job, Brett. I wish I this photo was of sufficient resolution that I could zoom in on the pink and green shoelaces in my Tretorns. I was a slave to The Preppy Handbook.
Please notice Aunt Betty's camera. My parents are not (NOT. AT. ALL.) picture-taking people, and I am fairly certain that no photos of my childhood would exist if Aunt Betty had not been around. I clearly inherited a love of travel and photography from Aunt Betty instead of getting my my mom's cooking and gardening genes, which missed me entirely.
Back in the seventies, Aunt Betty lived in an apartment, which seemed incredibly glamorous to me. I have told her that I remember her apartments in greater detail than I remember most of the houses we lived in, because she had so many fascinating items in her apartment, like a liquor cart with metal labels that hung around the necks of the bottles. She had styrofoam airplane models that hung from the ceiling and a board that you could stand on and do the twist, PLUS her apartment complex had a pool. There was nothing we looked forward to more than spending a weekend with Aunt Betty.
When I was about to turn 17, Aunt Betty took me to Acapulco, which was theretofore the coolest thing that had ever happened to me. OK, yes, my Mamaw and Papaw went too, but it was still the first time I had ever been outside the U.S. in my Ralph Lauren corduroy skirt and penny loafers, and I felt very grown-up and special especially when Aunt Betty let me drink margaritas by the infinity-edge pool at the hotel.
I could go on and on. I could tell you about her many trips to Korea to escort orphan babies home to their new families, or about how gently she always treated my grandmother despite Mamaw's often being pretty hard on her, but the bottom line is that my Aunt Betty is the salt of the earth. She is just good people, and she has survived breast cancer cheerfully and freaked out my children by taking off her wig, and now she is caring for her ailing husband, still cheerfully as far as I can tell. My children adore her as much as my brothers and I did at their ages, and I hope that somehow this post will convey to her just how much she will be missed today.
Although she is a terrible lurker (Aunt Betty, that's a person who reads but never posts comments), she is my blog's biggest fan, and it's just one of a million reasons that I love her. Merry Christmas, Betty and Bill. We know you are here in spirit.