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Traveling Through Life With Clara

I was fifteen years old the first time I sat at her kitchen table for a serious discussion.   I had sat at her dinner table many times before that but always as her marriage.  This day was different and a turning point for me...I can still picture that kitchen...small by today's standards, with a round table and chairs to hold a family of six. The stove was always brewing something that smelled wonderful but the smells I most remember were the smells of her homemade polish food...a little pantry where we did dishes and a small hallway leading to a porch that at one time held a washer and dryer but then it became a place for a tiny bathroom...I grew to love that kitchen and our table time talks.

She married my Mother's only sibling, my Uncle.  She knew me early on and I was her fairy tale princess in her beautiful wedding..I don't know if she knew at that time, that that was how I beautiful in that dress and the flowers...Oh my..just like the big ladies. I swear to this day, I have never enjoyed a bouquet quite as stunning as that one. Right from the beginning she knew how to make me believe in myself, but way back then at 4 years old,...I was not able to figure that out..this photo and one of my brother as the ring bearer with me, are one of my greatest treasures.  I wish every little girl could feel so special. It was the beginning really of my travels with Clara.

Life goes on though..and she had her family and I had mine..We would always be together at family functions and holidays..My Uncle was a big part of my life when my Dad was not around.  I loved watching my aunt and uncle as they interacted with their own kids and I loved that I was always welcome at their home.

My home on the other hand was a bit dysfunctional back in the day...My Dad was career Military and my Mom struggled to bring up me and my three brothers, mostly on her own...with some help from my Grandparents. My Mom had to work and and life just wasn't easy at our house...and so when I entered my teenage years and turmoil was the name of the game at home...I went to Clara's house...and that's exactly how I thought of it...Not my Uncle's house but Clara's house.

So that day at fifteen years old, I took my spot on the right side of the table, and I'm sure we had coffee or tea and I started to talk..I talked about all the things at home that were hurtful and sad.  I talked about my trials and tribulations and fears.  I talked and I'm pretty sure I did a bit of crying also..for hours, and she never told me to be quiet or to suck it up. What she did do was listen, and then in her calming and so soft voice, tell me how to deal with it.  How to try to keep the peace.  How to try to understand that it wasn't about me.   It was more about how life was for my family and how strong willed and strict and difficult it could be for the adults in my life.  What she did was blend from Aunt to friend that very day.   

You know as we grow the years meld.  When we are young 15 years difference seems like an eternity.  Where her and I sit today, fifteen years has no defining measure.  We have blended together in years, partly because we never, after that day, let age define our relationship.  So we started traveling together in many ways.  We shared a love of knitting and reading.  She loved a good time so she never really missed to many home parties...Oh my, she taught me so many lessons along the to love passionately, how to laugh out loud.  How to listen to each other...she taught me that you don't need much except tea, time and good conversation to pass away an afternoon in the blink of an eye...and she nurtured the gift of travel in me by telling me of her great adventures with my Uncle and then after my Uncle died, her and I have traveled far and wide together over the years, and we have always had wonderful times...without her knowledge and fearlessness I'm not sure I would be on the path I'm on today...The lessons go on and on.   

Our friendship grew into something so special it is hard to the point where now, I really do think of her as my friend and only occasionally remember that she was first my Aunt.  She is the last of all my relatives and she continues to teach me life lessons.  The greatest gift she has given me though, is the gift of self-confidence and pride in myself ..She has always been my biggest cheerleader in all that I have done but never more so than in the last 8 years of my life as I struggled to be a photographer and now to combine my photo's with my writing...I have a file draw full of all the notes, letters, cards, kind and loving words that she has taken the time to write to me.   She believed in me when no one else in my family did.  That is what a true friend does...they let go of the naughty side of you and embrace all the good that is in you, that most can't even find. Believe me, I do have a naughty side but I'm not quite sure Aunt Clara knows where it is and if she does, she keeps that side to herself.

So today I celebrate her.   She turns 82 and I hope she lives another 82 years so we can see what else is out there for us.  She still lives alone in her own apartment.   She still knits and reads and is my inspiration for how a life should be lived.  Nothing to fear...just go do whatever it is that you love.   She has enriched my life more than she will ever know and more than I can express here.   What I do know is just like that little flower girl above...every mature, adult female should have a friend like Clara in her life.  I'm one of the lucky ones that never stopped traveling the road with her after that day as her flower girl...all these many years she has held my hand and pulled me along and I am still marching to the beat of her plays some beautiful music..not many like her left.   I'm glad she's mine..

Happy Birthday you much.

On one of our many road trips...Jim is looking a bit tired but not Clarey...she is all smiles about something...she just loves to laugh and isn't that the greatest music.  I really think they are on some crazy ass ride and Jim is scared to death and Clara thinks that's a hoot...

Clarey was always up for a good adventure and nothing scares her.  Here we are in Springhill Nova Scotia and she gets her hard hat, raincoat and boots and off she goes down into the mines...Not me or my Mom..I was scared to death the mine would fall in on me and that blackness would swallow me up.  Clarey, she loved the whole experience...BTW...I come from a long line of coal miners..we were from Springhill so I was not a stranger to the mines...just didn't want to go in them...Looking good Clarey.

Now this was an adventure I could sink my teeth into.  Twenty years ago we went to Hawaii...oh what a trip that was and right there by my side was my Clarey...we had a great time.  Jim and I went to two Islands but Clarey took off on her own and went to three Islands..I love her adventuresome spirit and she has no qualms about going about her pleasures alone if that's the way to get the job done...she lives life...plain and simple.

This was a surprise 70th birthday party for her..and she was really surprised.  I choose this photo because this tells the story of her life..She is always happy, appreciate every thoughtful deed, believes deeply in her God and shares her love of life with a smile for all who encounter her...She really does...get this thing called "Life". 

As a final note..every time I look at that wedding photo I feel such joy for that little girl..even though she was scared to death she is just the cutest thing ever and I must say, my hair was "Rocking"...that day...which was not usually the case...LOL

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Reader Comments (9)

Oh my goodness...what a poignant, beautifully written and heartfelt post! In the space of it, I grew to love and appreciate Clara (Clarey) if that is possible, just by seeing her through your loving and appreciative eyes! I am so very happy for you that you have this amazing woman and role model for living in your life -- and I can sure see how her great qualities have rubbed off on you. The gift she gave you of believing in you was one of the greatest any person can give another. Oh, I could go on and on. I absolutely adore that picture of you at the wedding. What a little sweetie. Your hair really was rocking then -- and stilll is!

October 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSherry G.

Thanks so much Sherry for your kind words...I do believe you are a bit like my Aunt Clarey...always so encouraging and uplifting...Wishing you a beautiful day ahead and lots of wonderful gifts in your life...and may you also, always have "rocking" hair days...

October 2, 2013 | Registered CommenterCheryl Crotty

How great to have such a wonderful person in your life she looks so much fun. I would just love to meet both of you and have a good chat and maybe a chuckle of two. I've nominated you for a Sunshine Award check out my blog

October 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterViv Halliwell

What a super post! You are blessed!!! Now, BTW, I nominated you for the Sunshine can find out the scoop here, Miss get busy!

October 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDenise Powers Fabian

Oh, Dear Cheryl,
I'm leaning into my computer with tears in my eyes.
I'll have to share this with Richard!
Just the other day I was talking with him about the sweet, good-natures of his Polish family.
I have a dear artist friend who is 92 years young and with whom I have the same relationship as you do with Clara...
but I wasn't as blessed to have anyone nurture me at the vulnerable age of 15 when I left home. I LOVE this post.
Has Clara read it?
Thanks for sharing your amazing gift for writing and combining your images and words. Your love and sincerity ooze
with each and every post. I feel blessed to have YOU in my life.

October 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAntoinette

Dear sweet of you to stop by and yes, someday, when I next get to England, if I can find you we will get together. That would be such a thrill for me..your kindness is a gift...and I know we would never be at a loss for words...thanks also for the Sunshine award...I'm really humbled by that...I am going to work on it tomorrow...xoxo

October 3, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercheryl c.

Oh Antoinette your comments are always so moving...feel free to share with Richard...I wish you could meet would love both have the same gentle soul...I'm glad you have someone like her in your life also...I don't think I would have survived without her...

October 3, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercheryl c.

What a hoot. She sounds like a perfect match for you Cheryl.. :D

October 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterChris

She is a wonderful person Chris...I know you would like my Clarey...thanks for coming over to meet her...

October 14, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercheryl c.

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