When my aunt Leona died last November, it fell to my cousin, Pat, to take care of her things. Luckily, Aunt Leona was not a pack rat (I must get that from somewhere else) and her apartment was small so it was not the huge burden that job can sometimes become. Pat asked us all if there was anything we wanted before she began getting rid of things. I remembered that Aunt Leona had a little red oriental chest in her living room. It was special to her because it had belonged to her sister, my Aunt Catherine. Catherine and her husband, Ellis, had received it as a gift from friends who were world travelers and had brought it back from one of their trips to the east. So I made arrangements to have it shipped here from Illinois. I like it very much. It's a very useful little cabinet and I had just the place for it. But better than that, I like being the new "caretaker" of it and I appreciate the history behind it.
After getting rid of furniture, clothes, etc., Pat kept Aunt Leona's personal things until we could all get together and go through them to take what we wanted. That opportunity came on the Friday night before her memorial service. After sharing a very good dinner at the Pines, we settled in to looking through the things Pat had saved for us. There were LOTS of pictures. Some very good older ones I had never seen before. A great picture of my grandparents! They had both died years before I was born, so I never knew either of them. And I have only seen one or two pictures of either of them all my life. So that was a terrific "find". (Aren't they "dapper"?)
Much as beauty is in the eye of the beholder....I guess "terrific" is in the mind of the finder. As we milled around, reminiscing and sharing stories, my cousin, Maureen, screeched jubilantly, "I'VE GOT THE VINEGAR BOOK!!!" When we were all still very young, Aunt Leona and her brothers (our fathers) all had copies of The Vinegar Book. They were convinced of it's hundreds of beneficial purposes. It became sort of a health bible for them. She had found Aunt Leona's copy and quickly laid claim to it.
Like most women of her age, Aunt Leona had a plethora of costume jewelry. While looking through it, I found a pair of rather large (1-1/2" diameter) Christmas earrings. I was holding them when my sister-in-law, Linda, said, "Take them. They're you!" I laughed because I couldn't quite see Aunt Leona wearing them...and it's a sure bet I'M not going to wear them. I grinned and said, "Here. I'll take one and you take one and we'll use them as little Christmas tree ornaments and every year when we hang them we'll laugh.
After we had looked at photos, souvenirs, memorabilia, etc., Pat brought out a little case that held some of Aunt Leona's better jewelry. She wanted to make sure that we each got to pick something that we would like. In that case was her 1931 class ring from Streator Township High School. Pat and the others agreed that it should go to either my sister, Karen, or me because we also graduated from that high school. Karen said she didn't care, so I took the ring. Of all the tangible things I have left of Aunt Leona, I love this one the best. I can remember her still wearing it and she was pleased that she still had it. I like the design of it better than I liked my own class ring. And, speaking of my class ring, I lost it the winter after graduation...so I have been without a class ring for 45 years -- until now.
Thank you, Aunt Leona. I will cherish it always...and I'll try not to loose it!!
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