Aunt Ruthie gave me my first real Christmas tree. She and Uncle Rolland brought it to our house along with red shiny Christmas ornaments. She showed me how you put the small ones at the top of the tree and the larger ones near the bottom. She gave me dolls from China and Hawaii. She made cotton candy at the local fair. She had a certain magic to her.
We cousins always liked going to Ruthie’s. Perhaps it was the cookies we got to eat in the kitchen on first arriving. Or the fact that there was always a treat on the pillow of the bed we were sleeping in. But then there was the plant incident. We were running around the house and I knocked over a plant. She got really mad – I’ll never forget that. Knocking over plants was not the sort of thing you did at Aunt Ruth’s house.
As a young child who hadn’t been much further than the bounds of New York state, my first glimpse into the worlds beyond came from sitting on the floor in a darkened room as Ruth (and Rolland) conveyed their trips to exotic places like Europe, Japan and China, through the clicks of a slide slow carousel projected on a real screen. It felt like going to the movies, but better, as they narrated, which often included a slightly heated ‘discussion’ of where the photo was actually taken.Then there was the Thanksgiving when Ruth and Uncle Doug plotted together to surprise the family with a suckling pig, complete with a shiny red apple in its mouth. I was five and I’ll never forget the mix of fascination and (frankly) terror, seeing that piglet brought out on a platter.
The thing about Ruthie was that she never did anything half way. When you arrived at her house she always had something new to show you. There were artifacts from the latest trip overseas, or a tour of the two or three Christmas trees, each with their own theme. She loved so much to create beautiful things, whether they were gingerbread houses or pristine jars of real jam preserve. And the joy that she found in crafting things shone through in the excitement she had of sharing these treasures.I miss you, Ruthie.