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Monday, August 22, 2011

A Kiwi Tea Party in Heaven

The Burrows Girls - 1946: Val 20, Joy 24, Athalie 23, and Gran (Phyllis Marie)

Charlie got a call from his sister today. She was calling with some sad family news. Their cousin had phoned from New Zealand to let them know that their Aunty Val had passed away. Aunty Val was the baby of the Burrows girls. Charlie's mum's younger sister. She was 85.

In the 31 years I've been with Charlie, I only had the opportunity to have the pleasure of her company a few times on those occassions she would come to the U.S. to visit. But each time left an impression on me that I will never forget. I called her a spitfire. She was a natural teacher; both in life and career. She was funny as hell and had an easy, contagious laugh. She had a happy, friendly demeanor and never passed up the opportunity to enjoy a teachable moment. Above all, my most cherished memory of Aunty Val is that she made me feel that my choice to be an at-home mom was by far the most important job in the world. Not everyone made me feel that way. As a teacher, she would thank me, and say that she could always tell the children who had a parent home with them from the kids who went to full-time daycare. She thanked me for MY sacrifice, which would make me tear up. Then she'd hug me and say;

"Oh Luv, keep your pecker up. I know it's a right hard job. But you're dandy at it. Look at these precious little sausages you and Charlie are raising. Just marvelous!"

She doted on us; clucking about with the kids and making them giggle. She teased us about our "yankee" accents, and would point to an object and exclaim; "What's that?" Just so that she could giggle at how we pronounced it. She and Charlie's mum would sing their childhood songs and dance around the living room. She loved to read to the kids and would be especially enthusiastic about THEM reading to her. Every year, for their birthdays, she would send children's books by Kiwi authors and bring New Zealand alive for Averie, Caris, and Bryson. Every November, we would get our Christmas package, which she had shipped, by slow boat in October, because it was cheaper and she could afford a bigger box that way. All of her gifts were handmade with so much love you could actually feel it.

Charlie has three sisters. Of the four of the children in his family, he is the only one who never made it over to New Zealand to visit. There was never any money for such a big trip. We kept hoping that we'd get there before...well, before this. So, this is especially poignant for Charlie. For both of us.

Aunty Val was the last of the Burrows girls. The baby. I imagine that right now, there's quite a lovely Kiwi tea party going on in heaven. They're all together again. And Gran's pouring.