Thanks, Aunt Jo’Hanna

When I was in my forties I was lucky enough to be able to take my daughter to spend several weeks at my Aunt Jo’hanna’s seaside home in Montauk.  I felt incredibly lucky, since this was how I spent summer vacations with my family when I was her age.  The little town had grown and modernized a lot, but Aunt Jo’hanna and her home had pretty much stayed the same.

There was a downstairs apartment always available for visiting relatives.  It was quaint, like an old inn or summer camp for grown-ups.  There were lots of beds but few rooms.  Because we all would converge as a pack and needed space to sleep, it was like barracks, but in a good way.  The rest of the “communal areas” were small because all the daytime antics took place on her beach or the back patio.  I wanted Alexis to have those same warm memories, and I am so happy that we were able to do just that.

Even as she got older, Aunt Jo’hanna still had that ridiculous yellow hat that covered her head like an Afro made of daffodil colored rose petals.  It was her trademark though, immensely quirky and out of date, yet everyone loved it.  Her herb garden was amazing! She would walk us through giving the history and uses of each plant, picking off leaves here and there for us to taste, smell and take back to the kitchen for salads or tea.

Needless to say, and with no disrespect to any of my other lovely aunts, Aunt Jo was my favorite.  Because I always felt she “got” me.  She was educated in a time when most women just got married and popped out families.  She was a nurse in her younger years, back when they still wore crisp white uniforms, caps with stripes that actually denoted something, and those white-white stockings that always set them apart from waitresses on the “trolley”.  Yet for her age, she was always pretty hip.  She read everything and retained quite a lot, even though she hadn’t yet discovered that she was swimming in the Alzheimer gene pool.  (FYI – I think my toe has dipped into that pool, so if I post the same thing a few times in a row, get the net)

When I was in high school, I would write her letters in the winter when we didn’t get to see her.  I really don’t remember much about the content.  I do remember my Peacock Blue ink and stationary with the pink flower border.  And I even had “sealing wax” with a happy face.  That really screams “Hey, Hey, We’re the Monkees”, huh?  But the paraphernalia was just the exclamation point to the realization.  I really liked to write!  And even then I knew I gave good letter.

I remember that summer in my forties.  We were in the herb garden and Aunt Jo was picking lemon verbena leaves for Alexis to taste.  And out of the blue she said, “I still have all your letters”.  At first I didn’t even know what she was talking about (see gene pool above).  But then I realized, she had saved all my correspondences from high school and college.  At first I thought that the off-season in Montauk must be WAY more boring that I imagined.  But then she told me she liked to pull them out and read them every once in a while.  They made her laugh, they cheered her up, they made her think and they made her happy.  That was pretty intense.

I never had a diary or journal.  I didn’t get it.  Why write secret stuff that you didn’t want anyone to read.  You already know the stuff, so isn’t that redundant?  If the content was so sensitive you needed a lock on the book or a hiding place hollowed out in the back of your closet behind the Goodwill bag, why take the chance of discovery by your little sister?

So this new blog thing is great for me.  It’s like a diary that is addressed to someone, like a letter. And as long as I leave out the “diary” type stuff like, “I’m stalking a man” or “I killed a man” or “I want to be a man”, my wish is that these entries are like letters to Aunt Jo’hanna.  They make you laugh, they cheer you up, they make you think and they made you happy.  I hope I can do that for you.  How am I doing?


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