My Aunt Anne always said, “never miss a ‘simcha’- (Yiddish for celebration); don’t wait for the funeral.”
I’d visited my aunt several times in the past four years since she’d moved to Connecticut after many years in Florida. By the time she was 94, though still active playing cards, collecting antiques, and volunteering at a local college, her family convinced her to relocate closer to them. She died last week and her funeral was yesterday. A large gathering of friends and extended family- grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews, her children and their spouses, and of course her sister Lillian, 92, and my father, 87, assembled to celebrate her life.
Annie, as all called her, loved to shop, especially if it was shopping with and for children. My sister Madeline remembers her taking my brother and her to a pet store and buying them hamsters and gerbils, much to the dismay of my parents, especially upon realizing that the pet store had matched a male and female gerbil together, resulting in several batches of babies.
She loved family gatherings and even towards the end, relished the constant stream of visitors and contributed to conversations as she could. She grew up in Queens, NY, and by 9 years old, was taking care of her sister and brother, and also helping her father at his glass store in Greenwich Village, where she learned to cut glass and mirrors.
After catching up with cousins— promising to keep in touch and find an occasion to get together—though knowing how hard this is with everyone’s busy lives, we decided to face the I-95 traffic and realized we had enough time to do what we’d originally planned for the day—our annual visit to the New York Botanical Garden’s orchid show.
This year’s show features the Victorian era history of orchid collecting and propagation, where orchid hunters risked lives to seek out rare species around the world. I did wonder where the thin line between scientific passion and dangerous obsession met, but found the tales incredible nevertheless.
Strolling through the exhibit, I thought about Annie and her many gifts and hoped she’d have approved of our excursion.