Uncle Dave and Aunt Alice never had children. My aunt’s only sister, my mother, had one child, me. I spent summers at their mountain cabin. Aunt Alice and I picked wild blueberries for her homemade jelly. Uncle Dave and I would hike to a nearby stream to fish for rainbow trout. I grew up spoiled by their attention.
After college I moved home and took over the family business, the town’s only newspaper. Through college I had my share of dates but never married. My plans did not include marriage. I would earn a degree in journalism, move home, and take over the newspaper business.
The newspaper business has its days of chaos and this was one of those days. The old printing press was showing its age. Gil’s Feed and Seed, our biggest customer's ad, was an unreadable smear. The phone had not stopped ringing all day and to make matters worse Glenda, the receptionist, was home sick with the flu.
My hands were covered in black ink when I heard someone call my name. I turned to see the family pastor, Marcus. I knew by the sadness in his eyes it wasn’t good.
“Mary, I’m sorry to have to tell you this but your uncle passed away.”
Uncle Dave was well into his eighties. In the past years he had health issues but just the usual old age problems. Uncle Dave had gone to sweep out the garage when Aunt Alice heard something and went to check on him. She found him lying dead on the garage floor.
With Uncle Dave’s passing it was now just Aunt Alice and I. She reluctantly decided to sell their home and move to a retirement center. My aunt lost her husband of 64 years and now her home of 60 years would be sold. Through tears, runny noses, and boxes of tissues she and I cleaned out years of memories. After a number of yard sales it was time to put the house up for sale. It sold quickly and reluctantly my aunt moved into her tiny apartment. I silently prayed she would get out of her slump, get involved with the center’s activities and not stick herself away in her apartment.
I stopped by Aunt Alice’s to ask her out for lunch. When I arrived at my aunt’s apartment taped to the door was a note in her hand writing saying, ‘I’m in the basement’. My aunt was not stuck in her apartment. This was worse; she stuck herself down in the basement. I headed down to find my aunt. When the elevator door opened I heard Christmas music and laughter. In the center of the large room sat an over decorated Christmas tree. Every branch was covered with different colors and sizes of ornaments. Along one wall was a long table surrounded by elderly men and women talking, laughing, and signing Christmas cards. Aunt Alice stood at the end of the table stacking addressed envelopes in a card board shoe box when she looked up and saw me.
My aunt smiled and said, “Well, this is a nice surprise. Everyone, this is my niece, Mary.”
The elderly men and women who sat at the table stopped signing Christmas cards to say in unison, “Hi Mary”. With laughter they went back to signing cards.
A group of ladies, including my aunt, decided the men and women who serve in the military needed Christmas cards. Soon most of the residents were involved. Some donated stamps, others donated Christmas cards, and everyone signed each card with holiday greetings.
Much like the Christmas tree Aunt Alice was over decorated with ornaments. On her snow white hair sat an antler head band covered in battery powered blinking lights. From her ears dangled candy cane earrings. Around her neck hung a necklace made of antique red and green Christmas bulbs. She wore a bright red sweater with an embroidered green Christmas tree decorated in rhinestones. Aunt Alice sparkled in Christmas cheer. It was very noticeable my prayer was answered.
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