My Aunt Claire once said to me, “Trials give you strength, sorrows give you understanding and hopefully, some wisdom.” I’m sure she said something marvelous to everyone at one time or another. She was just that way.
My early memories of my Godmother were her marvelous stories. Claire and Uncle Herb were living at 1381 caretaking for Nana and I got to fly down and visit a few times. We sat in the kitchen and she told me when she was a girl my age, the milk man would come every morning and it was her job to scrap off the cream on top of the bottles for her brother George since he needed to grow strong. I was looking at a picture in the living room and she told me how Nana wore only black for two years while Uncle George was in the military. I couldn’t get to sleep in the front bedroom because the noise from cars stopping and starting at the traffic light right outside the windows at South First. She came in and sat on the bed and told me stories of that intersection, including the train that would stop across the street in the field and how all the elephants and lions would get out of the train cars because the circus had come to town. Her stories even got more marvelous. We took a ride up to Mount Hamilton and she told me about the time her brother accidentally shot her in her leg with a rifle. No big deal, she said. They just walked back down the hill. So when we were enjoying our Shirley Temples at Lou’s Village and she told me Nana started a healthcare system with the first baby born under it being none other than Evil Knievel, I didn’t question a thing. She was just that way.
I lived in San Jose in my 30s and had Wednesdays off. Sometimes we had ham sandwiches at Original Joe’s; other times, cheese fondue at the Bold Knight. Time with her always felt marvelous. She came to visit me at every silly apartment, flophouse, and room share arrangement I lived in while charming all my housemates, every time, with stories of a ukulele festival she attended or her adventures schoonering a sailboat headed for Alaska. Her favorite piece of advice for my female friends? Don’t act dumb as a fox. Many times we would spend hours sitting in her living room on the couch against the window, just sitting together as she counseled me about dumb boyfriends, life decisions and future plans. She was just that way.
One day she put me in her car and gave me The Tour. We started at 8 a.m. and we drove past Casa Grande on South Alma and then turned a block or two up the street to sit in front of Aunt Phillipina’s former home. We passed the Chapel of Flowers and she named our relative who used to live in that house before it was bought for a funeral home. She pointed out Notre Dame High School on South 2nd and we sat inside St Joseph’s Basilica for a long time. She said her high school graduation ceremony was held in that church and said it felt awkward because it was such a big building and her class was so small. I loved her side notes as we toured. We drove down Bird Avenue through Willow Glen and down old Monterey as she continued pointing out sites on our way to Morgan Hill. She wanted to show me The Old Bisceglia Cannery that became Sun Garden Packing, and of course Bisceglia Avenue, named after the family.
On the drive back home to San Jose she told me it was important for her to show me these things because we have roots, we have ancestors and heritage, and no matter what I have gone through or what is currently happening in my life, I have a family and to never forget where I came from.
I am so thankful for her love and the time she shared with me. I often find myself repeating her sage advice to others, starting the sentence with, “My marvelous Aunt Claire says…”
My Godmother was truly marvelous. She was just that way.