My Aunt Essie used to jokingly call herself an “Old Maid”. She was a retired elementary school teacher who never married.
Essie lived in the home that her parents raised her and her 12 siblings in. She shared the downstairs apartment with her brother -my Uncle Bob. Upstairs in a separate apartment, lived her other brother – my Uncle Russ. Bob and Russ were in their 60s and both worked for the railroad.
Essie babysat me all the time. She was a fantastic cook, an adventurer and a lot of fun. I adored her. She walked everywhere – to church, to the grocery stores, to visit friends and to hike in the woods.
Sometimes she’s take me on adventures. We would:
- Go the Lake Hauto to jump off the dock and swim.
- Visit her sister and stay in the rustic family cabin on the river.
- Go to Heisler’s Miniature Golf and then have Teaberry Ice Cream after.
- Hike up the mountain to the Strip Mines while she taught me how to identify Bruch trees, sassafras and teaberry plants.
- She had a vegetable garden in the yard and would grow tomatoes, lettuce, potatoes, corn, carrots and onions which we’d pick and eat for dinner.
- Essie liked to read, crochet and sit in her rocking chair watching the birds in the yard. She had a TV, but it was only on for me to watch cartoons and the Munsters.
- We’d play cards every night – Old Maid, Crazy 8s, Kings in the Corner, Rummy and Hearts.
- She’d read to me from Grimm’s Fairy tales.
- I’d sit on her lap in the rocking chair and she’s rub back and tell me stories of when she was a kid.
Essie had lots of friends. She’s talk to them on the phone sometimes. Other times she’d visit them at their homes or they’d come visit us.
She had a weekly Pinochle club on Friday nights with her friends. They’d rotate houses every week. I loved when it was our week to host. Her friends would each bring over a homemade treat and Essie would make finger sandwiches and put out peanuts, chips and snacks.
I’d bounce from Essie’s lap over to her friend’s laps for hours – eating delicious food, taking to them, shuffling their cards and listening to their stories. It felt like it was a party just for me.
I loved her friends and they loved me too.
I’m pretty sure that they were all also “old maids” – unmarried, living alone or with a sibling or lifelong friend.
I would guess that I knew Essie from when she was in her mid 60s until she died in her 80s.
I later learned that she had helped raise multiple generations of kids, just like she did with me. That explains why every holiday there would be dozens of Aunts, Uncles and cousins coming to visit.
I suspect that my Aunt Essie was an extrovert. She sure seemed to love being around people and they loved being around her.
Despite the many differences in the paths her life and my life have taken, she is my role model for aging well.