As I have said, I was the 5th of six children, born in New York City. But, I was also one of MANY cousins who also lived in New York City and who were, for the most part as close as siblings. I even have what we affectionately refer to as "Uber Cousins".....their father was my mother's brother and their mother was my father's sister. We shared ALL the same grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Consequently, it was very confusing for me to discover that the rest of my cousins had a different set of grandparents and aunts, uncles and cousins who were NOT related to me!
The matriarch of my family was most assuredly my Aunt Mary, who was my mother's sister. She and her husband, Uncle George, were never able to have children of their own, but they both played an integral part in the life of each member of my family. Aunt Mary knew all the family secrets and guarded each one. Though she was only 4'11", half Irish and half English, she was our family's version of the Godfather. Everyone went to her with their their joy and their sorrows and she dispensed condolences and congratulations as appropriate. And when called upon, she shared her wisdom, kindness and guidance. She knew every birthday and every anniversary and acknowledged each one with a card and/or a gift. She's also the reason we didn't grow up to be a bunch of heathens! Thanks to Aunt Mary, we each have impeccable table manners, can set a proper table, and carry on interesting, but always polite conversations. She was a timeless, gracious lady who was always "dressed to the nines", bewigged, and made up flawlessly. And her house was always neat as a pin. I still remember her following Uncle George around the apartment, where they lived for 42 years, carrying an ashtray to catch the ashes as they fell of his cigarette! And, like all of us, Uncle George absolutely adored and doted on her. His biggest gift to her was secretly taking religious instructions and converting to Catholoicism. He worked full time as Secretary/Treasurer of the North American Reassurance Company and still he handled the bulk of the heavy house cleaning, did most of the grocery shopping, though Aunt Mary did do all of the cooking, and handled all their finances. In fact he was on his way to completing all the last minute errands prior to their leaving on yet another trip to England when he unexpectedly dropped dead on a New York street.
Aunt Mary was lost...she didn't know anything about the state of their finances and had, in fact, no clue how to even write a check! Right after his passing, she was looking for something in the desk that had sat in their little dinette forever and found a stack of items tied together. It contained their bank books, insurance policies, a detailed account of their assets and liabilities, passports, and other important papers. There was even a detailed list of what songs he wanted played at his funeral! Even after death, he was still taking care of her!
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