Wednesday, January 5, 2011

11:11 make a wish

Gwen with her two daughters Kathy and Ginny
Lee deMaine holding new baby Gwen
My mother died in childbirth, no I think you say from childbirth as it was the birth that caused the death. I was the child that had been born just an hour beforehand. This event has colored my entire life in so many ways. Some things are expected some come unbidden and then the ahha!
My mother Gwen's sisters, Tiny, Joyce and Doreen stepped up to the plate so to speak, when I was born. Tiny took me from the hospital into her home until i was 9 1/2 months old. Then my father and his new wife took over my care. Whenever Joyce and Doreen could wangle time with me and my sisters from my dad we got to spend time with them. This was always a highlight of our lives. Being in a home where love and happiness abounded and was showered on us while we were there. A place where we knew we were important and we felt more than anything loved.
Kathy, Gwen and Ginny at Joyce and Doreen's Christmas morning 
My aunt Joyce always trying to help us see the bright side of life and cheer our little hearts would use phrases, songs and ideas to help us see the good in life around us. On saturday mornings if I stayed overnight she would announce brightly while we were doing the laundry in the kitchen, 11:11 make a wish! and then for most of my childhood if I was mindful of the time 11:11 was when I could make a wish any day every day.  From this little phrase I began to decipher what was important to me on any given day, by looking at what I wished for at the time.
Doreen and Kathy in back Joyce and Gwen in front

Upon waking the first day of each month Aunt Joyce would always say "rabbit rabbit".  This supposedly brought you good luck throughout the month. Well it didn't always work, infact I could really say it rarely worked in my life. Nevertheless, I was faithful about saying it. I think it did shape an attitude of hopefulness in my little heart. I was in my twenties when I finally saw it for what it was a childish whimsy that no longer worked for me.
Another positive piece that aunt Joyce shared with me was to look for something to be glad about in each day. She wanted me to focus on  the good in life and on others not myself.  She wanted me to "whistle a happy tune" and magically you would feel happier than beforehand. Her motives were always kind and loving. She taught me to love opera (or at least to listen to it every Saturday at 1pm she would put on the opera and we would listen as we cleaned silver)  She taught us to sew, bake, and the importance of timing in making a meal so that everything turned out just so!  She loved to sing and encouraged me always telling me what a lovely voice I had. She gave me ballet lessons and piano lessons. She taught me phone manners. She taught me how to write a letter and helped me with my penmanship. She adored children. She was the best grandmother my children have ever had and they loved her with a passion. 
Aunt Doreen's home at the shore in NJ
She was an  idealistic, nurturing, loving, maiden, woman and I am eternally grateful for her loving force in the life of my children as well as my life.
Her sister Doreen always showed us how to do a lot of  things "outside". We learned about birds, went on outings for the purpose of buying birdseed and to go birdwatching. We went to the seashore and stayed at her house there. We cleaned the house from previous renters and then walked the beaches, built sandcastles, rode the waves and rode bikes, played games and read books. She taught us to clean window screens and put in storm windows. She taught us to mow lawns and rake leaves. She taught us to use a camera. She taught us how to recycle. She taught us about money and how to save it. She started my savings account for me.  She taught us how write checks and balance a check book.
Tiny with her son Tom and holding baby Gwen
Tiny was always open and loving. Her home was always open to the kids that came to school in the dorms and eventually she became a housemother her love for that use was so strong. I had a little contact with her after the first year of my life.....but I know that that year was a life saver for me and am grateful to her for her loving energy. Later in life I made an effort to spend time with her so I could reconnect. She a sweet soul and loving person. And I am glad that I have had an opportunity to get to know them. Each in her own way saw to it that the things they felt were important were passed on to me.
  As women they did have a lot of contact with people not in the church. Even so not one of them ever left the community in which they were born and raised to live elsewhere, except my mother, Gwen.  Two of them held down jobs outside of Bryn Athyn. Joyce was the Assistant to the president of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia and as such was on their board of directors too. Doreen was the manager of the First Pennsylvania Bank in Huntingdon Valley and on that board as well. She also was an advocate and founder of Cairnwood Village in Bryn Athyn where she now resides.  Of the three women left after my mother died, only one, Tiny,  married. Their outlook on life was steeped in the doctrines of their church and a life of use and their beliefs had never been tried. They believed what they were told to believe and didn't question any of it. They had friends outside the community as well as in the community however, most of their life revolved around the community functions and its social network. They were good, reliable, responsible and loving to all their friends and family.

The night I got married I remember they told me "it is important when sharing a bathroom that you leave the room clean for the next person and always push the toothpaste from the bottom never in the middle.That was their advice on the night before I got married. This is of course from maiden ladies. I smiled and thanked them for the advice