Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens – while neither of these sit atop my own list of personal preferences, I appreciate the sentiment of the song and hearing the familiar tune is a reliable cue to spend a moment in grateful reflection. On April Fools’ Day this year, while riding my bike in the last hour of sunshine, the gratitude came first and I found myself humming about those kitten whiskers involuntarily – apparently it works both ways. Regardless, the first day of the fourth month of the sixteenth year of the twenty-first century for me was filled not with pranks but simple beauty. In the weeks that have followed, I have held this thought of “April Jewels” but was not quite sure where it was leading me. It is now clear that I was celebrating all along one of the most precious April gems in my life, aged to 80-year perfection today.
It has long been an interesting topic of conversation in our family that our mom’s sister married our dad’s brother, rendering me and my five siblings the lucky recipients of a super-powered aunt and uncle – sharing all the same relatives; they treated us as their own. Being the youngest of the crew by a fair margin, I had the extra special benefit of individualized attention magnified by their retirement years, allowing me endless pick-ups, road trips, dinners out and nights in with more sleepovers than I can count. They were a dynamic duo and embodied selflessness, making a home for the dog for which I longed but could not have due to family allergies and surprising me at a race 350 miles from home, appearing in a serendipitous moment of need when I was struck down by food poisoning and gracefully swapped roles from cheerleaders to nurses.
Though difficult to separate them after 40+ years of partnership and combined dedication to family, friends and travel, there are moments unique to my aunt that will stay with me always. Chatting in the car on the ride up to the cabin, singing our way across the Mackinac Bridge, shopping trips, post-practice ice cream recovery, laughing hysterically at Nick at Nite and TGIF, conversations through the Italian countryside, perfectly underlined cards for every occasion and many trips to Muskegon, granting my children the privilege of the love of extended family that was integral to my own childhood. During one of our stays in her home, she shared one of her favorite films with biggest and middlest – though roses with raindrops might not, seeing them smile and sing together to Mary Poppins definitely makes the list of my favorite things.
On this, her quadruple golden birthday, I am endlessly grateful for all the moments shared, memories made and look forward to many more to come.
Happy Birthday Aunt Helen – may the love you have shined on all of us be reflected back to you eighty-fold. Sparkle ever-bright lovely Jewel of April!