My eldest relative passed away last night. Aunt Elsie was my great-aunt, my mother's father's sister, and she lived near Sacramento, California. I only met her twice in my life, once when I was very young and she and her husband visited my grandparents with whom we were staying in New Hampshire, and once when I was 15 and my parents and I took a cross-country road trip out to California. The first meeting I don't really remember, I have just been told about. I know they gave me a piggy bank, which is probably still lurking about my parents' house. The second time I do remember; it was also the only time I have met my mother's first cousins, Mike and Jerry. I remember she was very tall, unusually so for a woman born in the early 20th century, I remember the deer fence around the garden at her long-time home, surrounded by trees, I remember the living room of the house she currently lived in, with her exquisite artwork on the walls (she never believed she was any good) and the cats in the small back yard. It was a bright, sunshiney day. She was a beautiful artist and extraordinary writer. As I got older, I would send her letters, and receive back her perfectly scripted hand.
I continued to write to her when I studied abroad in Rome in 2006, though by this time writing often took her several days to complete. I was thrilled whenever I received one of her letters. The line that always made me laugh with a bit of melancholy was this:
"Gosh, didn't mean to bore you with all the above - get carried away with memories once I start."
She had been telling me about her travels as a younger woman - the very thing I longed to hear about! The least boring thing of all! Since I don't have any pictures of her, below is one of her letters to me in Rome. My favorite memories of her.