Last week I received a box in the mail from my an old friend Natalie. I spent a lot of time with Nat and her family when I was younger and our families were close. So close that I called Nat’s mom Aunt Rosie. Some readers may recall that I have written about Aunt Rosie before in my blog (see Two Emails).
Aunt Rosie was a strong, take no baloney woman who used a brash bravado to cover up a very soft and vulnerable inside. Folks didn’t mess with Aunt Rosie…at least not those who wanted to walk away with their fanny intact.
Aunt Rosie passed away in September 2009. Regretfully, I didn’t find out about her passing until many months later. The last time I had an opportunity to see her was when my mom passed away in 2002. We kept in correspondence over holidays and such, but I never again got to spend time with her.
During her lifetime Aunt Rosie collected giraffes. Over the years she amassed quite a collection. I remember buying her a number of giraffe items over the years. Nat recently had a yard sale out at her home in Arizona and finally got around to going through that old giraffe collection so she could get rid of some of them. In the collection she found one that had writing on the bottom indicating that I had given it to Aunt Rosie on her birthday (April 8th) in 1981. Nat sent me a message on Facebook and asked me if I would like it and offered to mail it to me. I thought that was a lovely gesture on Nat’s part and I happpily accepted her gracious offer. A few weeks later the box arrived.
I didn’t really recall which giraffe Nat was referring to based on our communication about it. After all, it was 30 years ago. I can barely remember what I did five minutes ago. When I opened the box I discovered that the giraffe had broken while in transit. His head broke off about mid neck and lay disembodied in the box amongst cermaic chips and dust. Being the seasoned emergency management professional I am I knew immediately that this called for some Elmer’s glue and a forgiving eye. I wasn’t going to throw it out after all…not after it came all that way and especially now that I recognized the giraffe. This giraffe was painted by while I was pregnant with my first born child Sarah. At the time I was in my painting ceramic creatures phase(a phase that only lasted about a year or so thank goodness). As you can see from looking at the giraffe I had more heart than talent.
I imagine most folks look at the giraffe and see an old poorly painted, patched together giraffe. Not me. I see a reminder of what Aunt Rosie meant to me. I see the memories of a woman who expected me to stand tall even when I wanted to crumble…who taught me that when you are going through hell you keep going. I see the determined look in her eye when she told me, “Don’t let them give you any crap!” I see a woman whose resounding message in life was one of resilience - she kept going despite all the challenges life gave her…she kept going. I see an homage to the love I had for a woman who was so different from my quiet, polite, no conflict mom…a woman who showed me that there are no apologies due for speaking up and holding your ground.
It is a beautiful thing that old poorly painted, patched together giraffe. It represents to me a part of my evolution under a strong mentor who likely never fully appreciated the role she played in my development. It represents the soul of a fighter who taught me the intrinsic value in fighting for yourself. It is ironic that it is now chipped and awkwardly glued back together, but still sturdy, viable and recognizable as a giraffe…not unlike the woman it was originally given to and the woman who has it now…not perfect, not pristine, but determined and not willing to fall apart.
Thank you Nat for sending me the giraffe and thank you Aunt Rosie for imbuing it with meaning. You voice, laugh and spirit are still with me…you left an indelible mark.
Day six hundred and ninety-five of the new forty – obla di obla da