These days, as I find myself on my slow way towards middle age, I am reminded of past days, and the idea of being “eight and a half” years old.
“Eight and a half”.
That “half” seemed so important, putting me that much closer to the big “nine”. It seemed so important to measure myself in that way, back when I was involved in growing up, instead of just growing older.
Warmth, wisdom and grace,
Loving eyes that have lived the age,
Chirping, twittering, charming,
A warm summer breeze
contemplating evening’s cold advance
Families are about checks and balances, weights and counter-weights. One side, and then the other side. But there’s always someone watching from the outside – watching the tension, playing a balancing act of loyalties.
Auntie Dora saw our family go through its paces, and I’m sure it was hard for her to not get involved sometimes. She had been Poppy’s close friend for many years, and had watched my mother grow up.
Our Auntie Dora had been old for as long as I had known her (eight and half years at this point). There was a sense of sameness and stability about her – dependability, perhaps. She was a ray of sunshine that shone on Kim and me occasionally when we were both still quite young.
I didn’t know what magic would cause Aunty Dora to appear on Poppy’s doorstep every week or two, but it was magic all the same for Kim and me. Dora always brought a happy attitude, a bright loving smile, and a bag of goodies or toys for us kids.
On one visit, Kim raced the the front door to greet her with me not far behind. “What did you bring us Aunty Dora?” little Kim asked enthusiastically, being so excited to see our guest. I remembered that this was an impolite way to greet a guest, and I elbowed Kim in the arm and chastised her, which confused poor Kim. However, the same thought was in my own mind: “Oh boy! I wonder if she brought us something?” Dora just chuckled, amused at our little moment of drama. Of course she had brought us some treats of toys. She was our darling Aunty Dora.
I cannot picture what Mum’s or Dad’s faces looked like, but I recall that Poppy’s spirits raised noticeably when Dora came by. I knew that there was some connection between them. They were together in some way, like really good friends who know each other very well.
As a kid, you don’t question the validity of your feelings, or second guess yourself. Dora seemed similarly unburdened by emotional baggage. She seemed serene, happy and full of love, and always talked to Kim and me without condescension.
Dora’s calmness and happiness might have developed with age and wisdom. When I met her at the age of four or five, she was already about 78, and had lived a whole lifetime before I was ever born. In spite of the three quarters of a century between us, she related to us in a direct, yet relaxed and comfortable manner that was without pretense or ego, and seemed rare for a grown up.
Dora used the word “love” to end many sentences, such as “That’s right, love” in her warm, chirpy English accent. I could tell that she really meant to use that word – that’s how it felt.