Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Aunt Alice

Every kid should have an Aunt Alice. This is the aunt who assumes the role of the surrogate mother. When your own mother is too busy being the mom, there is Aunt Alice. My parents were both from Europe and very much not hip. But Aunt Alice understood hip and sometimes even stood up for me against my parent's wishes so that I could be a typical kid. She was a little younger than my own mother, dressed in suits and business dresses and worked in a New York City office. At 12 years old, I considered that the utmost in hip. Alice loved New York. Every few months, she would take my brother and I on sightseeing trips to New York City. She introduced us to museums, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty and, her favorite, the Radio City Christmas Show. One of the best parts of the day was when Alice would give my brother and me a couple of nickels and turned us loose at the Horn and Hardart's Automat. She took me to my first performance of the New York City Ballet and my brother to his first Yankee game. She even took me to see the Beatles in Shea Stadium - twice! Always reading, Alice was a wealth of knowledge and interest. She was one of the original bobby soxers who waited on line to see Frank Sinatra in the Paramount. She could discuss current events, argue politics and reminisce about the war years in a way that made you feel so close to the era. It was factual, and fascinating. On Monday morning, Aunt Alice died at the age of 86. She had been in a nursing home for the last three years. At the time I put her there, she had fallen several times and I didn't know what else to do to keep her safe. Although it wasn't easy for her to give up her apartment, she agreed to go because it was best for everyone. During those three years, she never once complained about being there. In fact, she would tell me she was happy there. I believe she was. She enjoyed the company of her friends who visited her, the other residents, and of me. All she wanted was someone to converse with and I know she got that. She had her few minutes of fame when she worked for Dover Publication and they were looking for a grandmother type to appear on the cover of a booklet on family trees. It didn't take much for her to look the part. It came natural. Although she didn't have children, she had surrogates. She had me, my brother and about 10 other "children" who she adopted or adopted her. That was Alice and I am going to miss her terribly.


kristen said...

Oh sweetie, I'm so so sorry. I know this must be so difficult for you. I'm here, if you need. And sending warm thoughts and hugs to you and the family.

Anonymous said...

I had the privilege of meeting Alice in 1993 when we worked together with Assemblyman David Kronick. Since then we remained friends through the years phoning each other, meeting occasionally for lunch and sending each other cards and letters.

Alice was not only a good friend but a treasure chest of knowledge and talent. Although we kept in touch by phone, I only visited her once when in the nursing home where I was greeted by her warmth and smiling eyes. She told me she was happy where she was, the people were nice and being the well-read and intelligent woman that she was it didn't surprise me that she was organizing the library at the medical center.

While visiting,I was admiring some beautiful charcoal sketches of 1950's or so high couture when Alice calmly told me they were hers. I was shocked to know that she was studying to be a designer but didn't continue.

We shared stories of our travels and she knew all the old classic movies and even mailed me a list of "must see's " which I appreciated.

We spoke only weeks ago, and I regret that she won't receive the postcard I just sent her last week from Hungary, but I am grateful for her friendship and will always remember her as the wonderful woman she was.

I will sign off as she always did to me.

Love and luck!
Ana Cortina

jen said...

Ginny, I'm so sorry to hear about Aunt Agnes. I always enjoyed talking to her. Your tribute is beautiful. It was really a gift to have her in your life.

Several months ago I read a book that actually reminded me of Alice as I was reading it. It was about a brave,smart, classy woman who never married but carves a successful niche for herself in the New York dress market. If you get a chance, read LUCIA, LUCIA by Adrianna Trigiani.

Anonymous said...

Like Ana above, I first met Alice when I began working with Dave Kronick in the early '90s. We immediately hit it off due to our many mutual interests in books, music and history, and also because we had a similar sense of humor. She had one of warmest, sunniest personalities I’ve ever encountered. After Dave’s office closed, Alice and I remained close friends, often having lunch together (usually at Gandolfo’s on Bergenline Ave., where she always had the vegetarian pizza) and dinner with my wife, Jean, joining us. She loved talking about her days in Union City, going to New York to hear Frank Sinatra, her travels overseas, working for Dover Books and doing collections for an Indian company in the garment disctrict. Everything Alice did interested her. She loved reading novels set during the Regency period, and she loved the writer Anne Perry (“No, not Anne Rice!” she often corrected me when I kidded her).

I think the biggest laugh I ever gave Alice was one time about ten years ago when I was walking along Bergenline Avenue and spotted her from a distance standing on the corner waiting for a bus. It was a warm, sunny day and I was wearing dark glasses and a straw hat, a kind I rarely wore, before or since. From a distance of about 40 feet I loudly shouted “Hey, Alicia, buongiorno!” in my best fake-Italian accent. She didn't respond. Walking towards her I kept it up, ever louder and more obnoxious, and Alice just kept ignoring me, thinking I must be some insane person (which may not have been too far from the truth). Finally, I got right up to her and took off my hat, saying softly, “So you don’t even recognize your old buddy, Bill?” It totally cracked her up and we later laughed about it many times.

Alice was a gem. I'll miss her very, very much.

Bill McClelland