Friday, May 23, 2014

she fought like a girl

taken at my bat mitzvah in 2003
I had another post written up for today, but yesterday my family received some difficult news, and I thought it was a good time to share about an important person in my life. My Aunt Sandy passed away from cancer yesterday after battling it for a long time. She took care of my brother and I when we were little and my mom was sick in the hospital, she supported our interests and always showed up to see us perform, and she expected greatness from us because she knew we were capable of it.

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.

15 comments :

  1. Oh Nicole. My heart it with you today. I know what the loss of a very special family member can do to you. Please let me know if I can do anything.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sending lots of love today, and always.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I am so sorry to hear of your loss.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This was very very beautiful, and I'm very sorry for your loss, Nicole. I really did start crying at work. It sounds like she quite a lady. I've been thinking of my grandma lately, since she is not doing very well and I wish I had as many wonderful memories of her to cherish (distance and limited time can be a curious for first-generation Americans). My thoughts are with you and your family.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Oh, Nicole, I am so sorry for your loss. This was so beautifully written, your aunt sounded like an amazing, strong-willed, stylish, supportive woman. I am thinking of you.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Oh no, I'm sorry for your loss. She sounded like one of a kind. Best wishes for you and your family.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'm so sorry you lost your aunt. It is never easy, but luckily you have a strong support group of family, friends, and even support from your blog readers. Sending good vibes to you and your family.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I am so sorry for your loss. May she rest in peace, and live always in your hearts.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I'm so sorry, Nicole! Sending happy thoughts and hugs your way.
    ~Sara

    ReplyDelete
  10. Oh Nicole, I'm so sorry :( sending you strength to find your way through such tough times.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Such lovely words, to a wonderful lady. I'm so sorry but you have so many happy memories here and I imagine more and more in your head to relive over and over for her.


    Take care of yourself!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I'm sorry for your loss love. I hope her memories live on with you and through you :) Love you.

    ReplyDelete
  13. wow i'm behind, but i'm just now reading this. what beautiful thoughts. ryans sister just recently passed away from breast cancer actually and in a way she sounds rather similar to your aunt. its sad that these wonderful ladies have been taken from us, but i'm so happy that they are both no longer in pain. so happy that you have all these wonderful memories from your aunt.

    ReplyDelete
  14. wow! she sounds like a truly amazing lady. doing someone justice in words is hard, but I feel like you captured her really well. I love the story about the skirt. and how she kicked off an awesome Junior year with you feeling confident because of what you were wearing.

    I am so sorry to hear about your loss, hope you are doing ok. send you loads of love xo

    ♥ perfectly Priya

    ReplyDelete
  15. Oh, Nicole, I'm so sorry to hear about your aunt. It sounds like she was an amazing lady who had a big hand in making you the amazing person YOU are. I hope your family has been able to take some time to grieve and celebrate the life of this special lady. Sending you all my love.


    XOXO
    Becca

    ReplyDelete