Imagine the world she came into… barely any plastic, no televisions or computers. My Aunt was born in Elmira NY, to an Italian immigrant family, ninety years ago today!
My grandfather, Joseph, was eleven when he came to this country. He worked in the coal mines of Northeastern Pennsylvania as a young person. My Grandmother, Rose Tress, changed from the Italian Teresi, lived in Elmira, NY.
Aunt Claire was the second child and second daughter. Madeline was one year older. The picture of my aunts was in an old newspaper. I unearthed it from clippings my aunt accumulated over the years.
I hope to write about each photograph, but for now I will focus on two: the one of Aunt Claire and Aunt Melia in Atlantic City and the one of Aunt Claire and I in matching Easter Coats. My Great Aunt Carmella (Melia) Tress (see blog Not Just An Old Lady in an Apron) and Aunt Claire went to many outings like the one pictured. They were well-dressed women, always making sure the purse, shoes, and jewelry matched. I recall they both checked their lipstick before they left the house and that they dabbed a little Avon Cotillion behind their ear lobes.
Aunt Claire and I were photographed in matching coats in the 1960s. I was thrilled to be her twin in that coat. As a child, she took me downtown every Saturday to shop. She bought me many outfits and I looked quite chic in many childhood pictures. Our Saturdays, sometimes with Aunt Melia and Aunt Madeline, usually ended with a piece of pie or a turkey club at the Newberry’s counter or the Iszards Tea Room.
While shopping, we often saw people Aunt Claire knew. They stopped and chatted, there was no buzz from the cellphone to interrupt, just a calm conversation that always ended with Aunt Claire saying: “If you are out and about, stop over to 801 and have a cup of coffee with us.”
I found it sweet when talking to the head nurse about Aunt Claire last week, she relayed a recent conversation:
“So what would you like for your 90th birthday Claire?” asked Kelly.
“A sausage sandwich with onions and peppers.”
We celebrated Aunt Claire’s 90 years last Saturday with a pretty cake. When my siblings, their partners, my Mom, and my nephew walked into the lovely day room at the nursing facility, Aunt Claire’s eyes welled up with tears. She told me today she never expected that but it was so nice to see everyone. Aunt Claire also said she really enjoyed the sausage sandwich, it had been a while since she had one.