|taken at my bat mitzvah in 2003|
My aunt was such a force in my life from a young age. She was someone I looked up to and I always wondered if I would follow in her footsteps later in life. She was fiercely independent; a strong, stylish working woman. She'd lived and worked in New York. Does it get any more fabulous? She'd loved, but never married until much later in life. She didn't settle for things that weren't worthy of her time and energy, and the things she did deem valuable, she committed herself to wholly.
She was such a cheerleader for me as a child and adolescent, especially when it came to fashion. She humored me when I announced in middle school that I was going to be a fashion designer (thought I am not an artist and my sewing skills are substandard), and then encouraged me to take French so I could work as a fashion journalist when I decided that would be a better fit for my skills and passions. She always had beautiful scarves and jewelry, and she taught me how to shop and how to put together outfits. Many of my favorite shopping memories, especially as a child, we're vintage-ing around Austin, Houston, and Fredericksburg with her. One summer she took me back to school shopping. We went to American Eagle, my first time shopping in a store in the mall that wasn't a department store, and magically found pairs of jeans that we're my size. I went home with purple converse and so many cute outfits to start my junior year, which ended up being one of my favorite years of school because I felt like I was finally finding myself as a person, partially because I found clothes to express myself in (and that fit!).
We also went to a boutique in Fredericksburg , and I fell in love with this beautiful midi skirt with fall-colored stripes and a wide mustard yellow band around the waist. She bought it for me, and it was the most expensive, most stylish, and most grown up thing I'd ever owned. I was on the speech and debate team in high school, and I insisted on wearing the skirt to compete in because if it was expensive, stylish, and grown up, it must also be professional. I stood out like a multi-colored sore thumb at the first tournament of the year and all of my judge's ballots told me I needed to dress more professionally in the future. I determined that they didn't know anything about style, but I pushed the skirt to the back of my closet and didn't wear it again for a long time.
Several years ago, when I was diagnosed with depression, she reached out to me about her own struggles. She sent me long, emotional emails sharing thoughts she'd had and things she'd felt that I imagine she had only ever shared with therapists. I became deeply connected to her because of this. Soon after, she was diagnosed with cancer. I was distraught and devastated. I discovered the book Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy by Geralyn Lucas and performed it at speech tournaments for the rest of the season. I sent her a copy of the book with a letter about how much the author reminded me of her, being so fierce, loving, and for clinging to her femininity in the face of the disease. I loved sharing things just between the two of us that other family members didn't have to be in on.
Our relationship hit a rough spot for a few years recently, but I most like to remember these times with her. After many painful emails exchanged between the two of us, I finally put up my white flag and asked if we could go back to how things were before. We both knew her time was limited, so it was important that we made those mends to our relationship.
I have a small collection of scarves that I've inherited from her over the years, and they are some of my most prized possessions. I like to picture her shopping and picking them out individually on her adventures throughout her life. I'm sure they all had some memory attached for her, and now they have my own memories stitched into the fabric too.
I owe so much to my Aunt Sandy--my pluckiness, my independence, my love for fashion. In a lot of ways, this blog probably wouldn't exist without the influence she had on me, both early and later in life. I'm so happy for those memories I have of her, and that she's no longer in pain.