my favorite handwritten letters involved little punctuation no capital letters run on sentences and often ill formed alphabet letters they were puzzles filled with daily life food recipes family and love my favorite letters were written by an elementary school dropout who was pulled from school to care for her father and her siblings after her mother became ill her father called her the staff of his old age imagine that imagine a young girl pulled from school and expected to raise a family she was the kindest of my aunts the one who gave us haircuts on the red vinyl step stool mo howard haircuts given with love and laughter followed by a molasses cookie and a can of fresca she made christmas eve dinner the most wonderful meal imaginable chicken and rice the best chicken and rice and none of us can replicate her dish even though we all helped her make it watched her work her magic its still my favorite meal ever but i cant cook it no matter how hard i try when we were little and spent the night at my aunts house we shared a room with her everyone had their own room except our aunt dorothy she slept in the common area upstairs in the old house i have no idea why but that was where she slept and where we slept she never complained always smiled studying in germany in my early twenties i called home to check in with my dad and he told me she had passed away she had always been in my life and was one more loss that broke my heart and the other aunts changed once she was gone she was the peacekeeper she was the consistent personality the caretaker the cook the supporter the selfless one she was the mom of everyone even us her nieces and nephews she never flew rarely went out of town never drove a car her sisters and brother all went on to college became teachers and lawyers and navy commanders she stayed in her hometown in her childhood home she raised her siblings cared for her father and loved her nieces, nephews and neighbor children and the few letters she wrote were my favorite

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