I remember so well
The aroma that wafted up
Whenever Aunt Carmella lifted the heavy lid
Of her cedar chest,
A treasure chest to a little girl who had yet to know adventure.

The smell was dry and sweet,
Just a bit dusty
And held the promise of exploration
As Aunt Carmella carefully removed items large and small
Tokens of her own adventures
To share with her wide-eyed niece.

There was the collection of salt and pepper shakers
All shapes and sizes
Made of tin and glass, ceramic and china
In the shape of animals and buildings and food and furniture
Each holding a story that Auntie was only too happy to share.

There were the black velvet pillow covers with bright yellow fringe.
Was one an image of Elvis? Another a tropical scene?
And the black and white photos, many of Auntie herself,
Looking glamorous and exciting.
I wanted her to transport me to the world of those photos
To New York City in the 1940s,
To a world of high heels and dating and dancing
To a world far from our small coal mining town.
She was my passport and I loved her for it.

I loved when she would get out her record player
In its brown leather case
And carefully set it up in the large kitchen
Selecting record after record from her collection of 78s
Which she kept in a special case with yellowed manila dividers
Indexing the music of her glory days.
Looking back, I feel I spent hours of my childhood
Dancing with Aunt Carmella on the black and white checked floor
To Elvis and the Andrew Sisters and Frank Sinatra.
Doing “The Hucklebuck” and learning the words to
“His Feet Too Big for the Bed’.”
To this day, I cannot step on a dance floor
Without thinking of Aunt Carmella.

I loved when she would play games in the yard
With my brother and me,
Youthful and fun and full of energy.
She would sit with us, when we were quite small,
In the small wooden sandbox our dad had built.
When we were older, she would catch fireflies with us
On warm summer evenings
Or play truth and dare on the steps of the back porch,
Always coming up with such fun dares
That we were never inclined to tell the truth.

I loved when she would sit with us
On the wooden swings in the back yard
Or the glider on the back porch
And teach us the words to all her favorite songs:
“Have You Ever Been Lonely?”
“Put Your Sweet Lips a Little Closer to the Phone”
“I Can’t Stop Loving You.”

And I can’t stop loving her
For how loved she has always made me feel
For being the family historian, sharing so many special stories with all of us
For sprinkling my memories of childhood
With so many wonders:
The magic that poured out of her cedar chest and record player,
The gifts of dance and song,
The spirit of fun and adventure.

She has touched my life
As only a dearest aunt can.
My heart is grateful
And will forever be filled with love for my “Auntie.”

7 thoughts on “Auntie

  1. Debra,
    Your poem is just beautiful! I am sure your Aunt Carmella is smiling down on you for sharing such wonderful memories!


  2. Debra, You are such an amazing story teller. And the formal portrait of her looks so much like you! What a fun person she must have been. You are so fortunate to have had someone who shared the past with you like that. Keep writing, I want to read more.


  3. I love this poem because of what it says about you and your auntie, but also because it reminds me of my grandmother, Mimi, and her great stories from the early 1900’s when she was young. She was the youngest of five, a free spirit who married at sixteen and had both my uncle and my mom before she was twenty. I spent many happy days at her 1820’s brick house where my brother now lives, when I was a child and there were LOTS of stories.


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