Anytime you left my aunt Sharon’s house, it was like you received a love transfusion.
As her niece, whenever I doubted anything in life, especially myself, there was always one absolute truth: my aunt Sharon loved me. She thought I was beautiful. She told me every time I saw her.
When I was with my Aunt Sharon, I was a different kid. I wasn’t the serious book nerd/tomboy. She was the aunt that did my hair, (Princess Leah style for one of my brother’s bar mitzvahs) and painted my nails. She was the only person who could get me excited about my looks and jewelry. I spent a lot of time at her house when I was a kid. A lot. We played a ton of cards. I drew a hundreds of pictures there. I jumped on the trampoline in the basement. I played with her dogs, even though now everyone knows I don’t really like dogs. But I always liked Aunt Sharon’s dogs. Always. I played on her piano, and she enjoyed it, and told me I could keep playing, even though she needed to rest. With my aunt I did things that I never enjoyed doing and still don’t. However, when I was with her, it was fun: garage sales and flee markets. Her excitement and her enthusiasm got me on board.
The only things she ever criticized were my nails and hair: "Mamashayna, don't chew your nails," she would say lovingly. I have curbed the habit and when she has seen me, she always comments. For my hair she would say, "Mamshayna, why don't you wear your hair back, you have such a beautiful face, a shayna punim."
I don’t know why this is such a strong memory, but I remember when I was a teenager, I drove her in her van. It was incredibly hard to drive. I was really too small to be driving it, but she had absolute patience and plenty of laughter as I spent 45 minutes getting out of her garage.
I will really miss all of the Yiddish that she through into every conversation. I’ll miss her singing. I’ll miss her love of off colored jokes.
If you had to make a list of the people my aunt loved, it would be super long, including countless friends around the country. During the last few years, she even loved the people with whom she had previously feuded.
But there would be asterisks for super-sized love for her kids, Ruth and David, their spouses, Rob and Elizabeth, and her six grandchildren, Samantha, Allison, Noah, Zachary, Brandon and Jeremy. She really loved her first cousins. She would talk about them all of the time. She loved my brothers and their families. She loved my husband and daughter. She loved my husband the first time she met him. It was amazing. It was just instantaneous. I am so grateful that she met him and got to see me married and with a child. I know that was important to her and made her happy and relieved.
The people though that I think she loved the most, besides her kids, were my mom and dad, especially my mom, who she referred to as her baby sister.
One of the hardest parts of moving to Israel was leaving my nieces and nephew. When my niece Talia was born 16 years ago, I promised I would be the same kind of aunt that my aunt Sharon was to me. I definitely have not reached that bar. I lived on the same street at my aunt; she was a third mother to me. Now, not only do I not live on the same street at my nieces and nephew, I live across an ocean.
But I do think that they know, or they will know, that my love for them is absolute and unconditional, and always will be.
After all, I learned from the best.