Some people never give up, no matter how hard they try. They are just too full of life. They cannot change their nature. Like trees and flowers, they strain after the sunlight and water and warmth anywhere, even among moldering ruins, in a dark lonely corner of a mossy, damp yard. This is what I am thinking about while I am standing in the hall waiting for Aunt Emma to put on her make-up and brush her long gray hair. Aunt Emma is seventy-eight now but she still puts a lot of effort into her make-up. She wears her hair long. Aunt Emma has always been a beauty. She has got those clear blue eyes, which make you think of a cloudless summer day with birds chirping and children playing in the park. Her skin is almost transparent and surprisingly pale like an expensive china tea cup. She dresses with taste. Her accessories have always reminded me of exotic parrots and butterflies sitting on simple white cotton of her blouses and dresses. At seventy-eight Aunt Emma is still a beauty. The only thing that has changed about her is not so easy to notice. Instead of her feminine high-heels or coquettish pumps she is wearing prudent and practical trainers now.
Last time I saw Aunt Emma was at the airport when she and Georgi were leaving for Sofia. I remember her saying encouraging words to my crying mother who could not stand being so far away from her dearest sister. I thought then that Georgi was a very lucky man to have such a beautiful wife who loved him so much that she was willing to leave her family, her friends and her home (when I say home I really mean the hospital she worked in and secretly considered her real home) and travel to a strange place over the ocean. I knew then we would not see each other for a long time. And I was sad because Aunt Emma had always been very kind to me. She had a great sense of humor. She smelled nice. When it was time for them to check in, Aunt Emma told me she would write to me. And she did. She described in every detail their flight and the new apartment they had rented and the yellow trams that rattled under their balcony and the magnificent violet mountains that surrounded the city. I answered her letter. And this is how I found my best friend who stayed with me for many years to come. I never had many friends. Aunt Emmas letters were filled with stories and adventures, strangers and surprises - now I know that she saw only work and Georgis illness. I could not wait for the postman to bring the next white envelope to our door. My letters were long and detailed. I wrote Aunt Emma about everything that happened to me and she always made little comments which showed that she cared. Had she stayed in New York I might have lived all my life thinking that she was just like those neat ladies who came to see my mother, looked at me with a delighted smile and said that I had turned into a handsome young gentleman. Deep in my heart I was glad she had left.
As I grew older, our correspondence subsided and eventually I only sent Aunt Emma birthday cards. And each time I did this I grumbled she did not have a computer. It would have made everything so much easier for me. But a month ago I received a letter from her saying that Georgi was in a hospice and could not eat or talk anymore. She did not complain. But I knew at once I had to go and see her. When I finally made it to Sofia Georgis clothes had already been given to the poor. He had departed in peace, she said, he had suffered so much. I asked her to go back to the USA with me. She looked at me sadly. I just cannot leave this place, it will make things too finite, she explained. She told me shed be fine: there were two cats and her neighbors toddlers to look after. And now I am standing in the hall waiting for Aunt Emma to put on her make-up and brush her long gray hair. I am looking at her. She is still a beauty. I will proudly take her by the arm, go and buy a nice modern laptop for my best friend. I tell her I need my weekly letters back. She agrees with a foxy smile. Do not expect me to write too often, I have my hands full, you know, she says.
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