I don’t have many memories before I was eight that did not have my Auntie Ed [short for Edna] in them. Auntie Ed was tiny. Seriously tiny. She was also a force of nature. Not someone you fooled around with. Auntie Ed had a way of looking at you that made your bones rattle when you had done something you knew was wrong. She [as we Aussies like to say] called a spade a spade.
Auntie Ed was the youngest of my father’s siblings. She had one other sister and four brothers. Though I actually lived with my other aunt, every holiday was spent at the home of my grandparents, where Auntie Ed lived. As well as holding down a job, Auntie Ed cared for my grandparents. My grandmother was blind and my grandfather had taken to his bed when retired, so her plate was full.
She never had her own children, as she married late in life. I always found that such a shame. Auntie Ed would have made one hell of a mother.
She loved golf. She was a wizz at gardening. I think the tomato plants were so scared of her biting wit they wouldn’t dare not flourish. As for her peas. I can’t remember a Christmas where I didn’t turn green from eating them. Each day we’d pick a bowl and it would be my job to shell them. Luckily we always picked way more than needed so I ate my fill as I shelled away.
Earlier this year as I picked peas in my own garden I was transported back to that time.
At the back of my grandparents’ house was a neighbour’s mulberry tree. To this day the smell of them sends me in to a tizzy of ecstatic delight. Auntie Ed had little sympathy the day I raided the tree and ate myself sick on mulberries that were still too green. I think she was actually secretly giggling at my discomfit. I learned a lesson that day…or maybe two. Never steal from the neighbours, and when you do make sure the fruit is ripe.
It has taken me years of practise to try to achieve a reasonable level of competency with baking. But I will never reach Auntie Ed’s standard. I can remember standing in the tiny kitchen as she threw ingredients together for her always perfect scones. I don’t remember her ever measuring anything…not ever…yet time after time they came out of the oven…perfect.
Christmas was a special time at the house in Campsie. Auntie Ed made her Christmas cake and the one thing I craved more than her peas…her Christmas pudding. As she sliced it open and served it with a piping hot homemade custard…the only thing that could make it better was knowing that somewhere inside I would find a shining silver sixpence.
Auntie Ed collected spoons. As I do. I am the proud possessor of some of her collection.
In 2007 The Daughter and I went to Sydney to visit with her. I am so glad she got the chance to meet my daughter, and profoundly saddened she never met my son. We stayed with Auntie Ed and I’d like to tell you about something she did…or rather said…that might help you to know this tiny powerhouse of a woman.
The Daughter and I were sharing a room. Sadly [like my father] I snore. This is not a little snurk now and the, rather like a train, an endless train right next to your ear. So at some point during the first night The Daughter grabbed her bedding and moved to the lounge. In the morning when Auntie Ed got up she she smiled at the Daughter. Then commiserated with her about how she had heard me too…all the way in her room.
This morning…my cousin rang me to tell me that Auntie Ed, at the grand age of 99, had passed away. While I understand when people say what a life she had, and yes she sure did…I am sad. So sad. You see, there are actually some people this world is better off because they are in it. My Auntie Ed was one of them. Today the world became a lessor place. It lost one of its best and brightest stars. I lost the greatest aunt a girl could wish for.
My cousin shared with me a couple of things, these things…they make me smile…because I know that there were people who were with her that loved her right until the end. Auntie Ed had been in a home in Australia. When he got the call that she was failing he spent the day with her. One nurse came in to Auntie Ed’s room. She asked him if she could give ‘Auntie Ed’ a kiss. You see they all knew her as I did…she was Auntie Ed…and they loved her.
So…a life well lived. A person well loved. A woman who gave me so much more than just a love of spoons. For all this I am grateful. I just wish Auntie Ed could have lived forever.