My Aunt

She was tall and stylish even on
her 90th birthday. A
surprise party, family, old friends,
church friends.
All of us had a story we could have
told about a thoughtful word, a
gift at just the right time.  Maybe
younger family members would not be
as kind in their thoughts. She could be
brusk, speaking her thoughts without
softening them.

She grew up tall and awkward. 
Old photographs she scrunches
down as her height takes her 
past older brother Hugh.

A dressmaker friend convinced her she was
beautiful. Helped her find a style. She 
piled her hair up on top of her head, draped
her clothes so that they softened her.

Thinking all the time, but not bookish or
academic, she left college after a year to 
work as receptionist for her doctor 
father and brother. Lived at home with 
parents and a
house full of siblings.
She eloped at the the last
minute, before being sucked into a 
marriage. The gifts and
guests waiting, she was in Toledo marrying
a dashing lieutenant. A different kind of

Back home with her newborn son, she
never went back. Working for her brothers in 
doctors office and print 
shop and the church. 

In the church clothing factory 
she helped design clothing made from African fabric.
Movied easily into managing the Cultural Center,
first one and then three. Made trips to Africa 
to buy sculptures and see the motherland. She
became advisor and helper to a generation of
women, giving them confidence to fly.

What I remember is the time she told my
father to take me to Dr. Louis so he could do
something for my awful acne. She tried to
get me a summer job working at a grocery
store in South West Detroit 
so I could use my high school Spanish. My mother 
nixed that one.
The maternity clothes she brought up
to the Black Conscience Library when I’d
left home and was a revolutionary
librarian, pregnant with my
first child. 
The way she looked out for
my uncle Henry, sending him new sheets and
asking us to clean up for him because he
was too nice a person not to. And he

Once we were both in Detroit staying at the Training Center,
housing for church members. 
My oldest daughter had a new baby. 
My father was lived on the 7th
floor. Barbara had just come and was in her apartment. My
father told me to call her and when I did, she said, in a thoughtful
voice, he want’s us to get to know each other. Or be friends. The years blur.
The last time I saw her, she wasn’t as sharp, was
starting to fade. It was a family gathering at
her son’s house. We talked for a little. She said
all the boys were dead. She mentioned talking to her
mother, who had been gone for years and years. And
told me I had always been nice.

7 thoughts on “My Aunt”

  1. Your beautifully crafted words, pulled me into this story. I felt like I knew her, this woman “who became helper and advisor to a generation of many women and helped them fly.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely tribute. I enjoyed reading this. I love how you travel through time highlighting her childhood, youth, adult and senior years. She touched many lives and certainly left an impression on yours.


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