My Connecticut Aunties

It was only a matter of time. I have to write about my aunts in Connecticut. I thought I only had two, but little did I know that I would have three.

I grew up with strong women in my life–darn strong women!–and they may just have succeeded in beating the patriarchy out of me. Most important is my mother, who taught me to pray, though she dislikes the Church; who broke down every New Jersey macho tendency just as it would emerge in me as I was growing up, but would also help me replace it with thought and humanity.

My mother has also been a catalyst for other relationships.  Though she and my father divorced when I was sixteen, she remained friends with my Aunt Tina, sister to my dad.  It was around this time that Tina had begun a relationship with my Aunt Margaret.

Ah, Tina!  Always a cool aunt.  She would sometimes sleep over when I was little and we lived in Piscataway.  She would cut my hair and my brother’s.  When I was seven, she bought me a small radio for Christmas.  It had plastic calendar tabs on it–months, days, and dates, so I could flip them and keep the current date showing.  I kept it on my desk and listened to music while I did my homework.

When she started bringing Margaret to family events, I found a soulmate.  I was crazy about the French language, and she had lived in Paris.  She would let me sip wine at meals and taught me which ones went with which foods.  When I was sixteen, she taught me how to drive a stick shift.  When I was twenty-four and sick in my soul, she listened.

Tina and Margaret are brilliant artists. They lived in upstate New York for a time and built a studio on the foundation of an old barn. Margaret sculpted; they both painted; they brought me to a new universe. I call them my Auntie Mames, after Rosalind Russell’s character in the famous movie.

In the late nineties, they moved to Queens. I lived in Bergen County, New Jersey, and I would travel to see them every other month for sleepovers. We did museum days at the Met, the Fricke, the Guggenheim, the Morgan Library. One fateful Saturday in November of 2000, we found ourselves at Tout Va Bien, a bistro in Hell’s Kitchen. My life would never again be the same.

In 2006, they moved to Connecticut–first New London, now East Lyme. The meals we cook! coq au vin, boeuf bourguignon, Cornish hens! (Margaret is a vegetarian, so she directs but does not indulge.) Manhattans before dinner…Edith Piaf on the turntable!

And now I have a third auntie. I’ve known Jeannie–a friend of Tina and Margaret’s for decades–since 1994, but a few years ago, she moved to East Lyme, and she lives a few doors down from them. I call her Auntie Three. She and I cooked the goose this past New Year’s Eve. When I visit, we walk the boardwalk at 6:30 and then get pain au chocolat. I make caffelatte, and by the time Tina and Margaret get up and moving, I always need a nap.

I will be seeing my three aunts in a few weeks for spring break. I am excited. There will be smells in the kitchen; there will be cocktails and hors d’oeuvres; there will be Edith Piaf on the record player; there will be talk of art and Barbara Stanwyck and my late grandparents.

It will be grand…as it always is when I visit them.

Cover photo (left to right): Margaret, Jeannie, and Tina.

I am participating in the Slice of Life Challenge sponsored by Two Writing Teachers.

14 thoughts on “My Connecticut Aunties

  1. What wonderful women and what wonderful experiences you have shared with them. Your life sounds like it has been so exciting and full. I love reading the specific details of your adventures.

  2. You paint a beautifully detailed, loving — and personal — portrait of these very cool aunties. I have real envy!
    My favorite parts: the little radio with the flip tabs, and the image of you and Jeannie taking an early morning stroll along the boardwalk, followed by snacks — and a nap. You brought us right along with you, setting the scene with sounds/smells/energy. How lucky to have such a fantastic trio to support you and teach you about the finer things. You’ll have a wonderful break!!

  3. How incredibly grand and rich, this tribute to your amazing aunts and their influence in your life – particularly in the development of exquisite tastes.Of everything in that final scene of what you’re expecting to savor on your spring break visit, what pulls at me most are the stories of your late grandparents (priceless) and Barbara Stanwyck (fascinatingly unexpected! But also a strong woman).

    1. Thanks, Fran! We discuss my grandparents a lot because they were Tina’s parents, and I simply love hearing her talk about them. We also talk a lot about classic movies. Barbara Stanwyck, Judy Holliday, Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart, and Audrey Hepburn are among my favorite stars. Stanwyck came to mind perhaps because my aunts live in Connecticut, and Christmas in Connecticut is a movie we often discuss.

  4. Wow, I would love your aunties! Early morning walks, chocolate, Manhattans, and wonderful food! I bet the conversation is all over the place, just the way I like it! Have a wonderful spring break in CT!

  5. I love hearing about strong women who influence their families in positive ways. The stories here show how much they have shaped you. I know you love to cook (and use real napkins), and this story of going to Hell’s Kitchen and being forever changed, Cooking the goose with an aunt, and getting chocolate on a walk gives me every assurance that folks who come through your front door know they are at home when they smell the delicious aromas coming from the oven. I wish I could cook like that – and I wish I had more discriminating taste buds for the fancy French cuisine!

  6. I just love this story. For me, food is such a memory inducer. Where were you when you tasted that one sauce? Or who made you that special dessert. I am not a fancy cook myself. My kind of kitchen life lends itself to large families and holidays withe lists of guests. But I love it. Something about all those family recipes warms my heart.

    1. Absolutely! Food is tremendously evocative–smells, too! I am not sure I would call what my aunts and I cook “fancy,” but it has certainly woven its way into our memories. I am exploring your past posts and imagining how much your family must enjoy your gatherings.

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