Auntie Sheila wasn't my aunt, in fact she was no relative at all. She was a dear family friend, and as a form of respect and closeness we put 'Auntie' in front of the name, instead of a more formal 'Mrs' or 'Sister'. Auntie Sheila was a lady of very simple means in a worldly sense. As a child she spent time in an orphanage of sorts and as an adult had her fair share of challenges with finances, marriage, children, etc. She could be a little rough around the edges, and though she had very little to offer in terms of material wealth, she offered love, acceptance, kindness and time. Really. The most important things to give.
As well as being a frequent babysitter, Auntie Sheila frequently took me to London and frequently gave me books and/or lessons on the Royal Family. It is from Auntie Sheila that I have a deep love and respect for England and it's beauty, charm and heritage. Having never learned to drive, Auntie Sheila knew the buses of London like no one else I knew. With her, we never took the train. Always buses.
I remember specifically the year I bought my porcelain Santa & Mrs Claus. I remember standing at the bus stop late that Saturday evening as Christmas lights and city lights shone around us. We were tired and worn out from a day in London. I remember I started singing Christmas carols and was soon joined in by what I thought was a nice man. (Auntie Sheila later told me he was 'a drunk old man.'--and incidentally, though Auntie Sheila was slow and older in years, she was probably just as capable and tough as any bodyguard.) Auntie Sheila didn't take nonsense from ANYBODY.
When I visited England alone in 1991 an 1996, Auntie Sheila made sure I set aside a day with her to visit and sight-see. What treasured memories.
(Tiffany and Auntie Sheila, Hampton Court--September 1996)
When Mike, Megan and I visited England in 2000, I was so excited to introduce Mike and Megan to Auntie Sheila. She (and her daughter, Ruth) fixed us dinner and made us feel welcome in her home. In that brief visit, Auntie Sheila's love and excitement to be meeting Megan was obvious. I knew when I said a tearful goodbye to Auntie Sheila that evening that I would probably not see her again in this life.
(Auntie Sheila, Tiffany and Megan--November 2000)
There are many nostalgic memories I have of people, places and things around Christmas time. And each year when I set out my Santa & Mrs Claus, and we hang our seven crocheted stockings Auntie Sheila lovingly made (for my family growing up and Granny, that my mother kindly passed onto me), I shed a few tears and a few smiles. And I thank the Lord for good people that influenced my life.
What about you?
What people, places and things from years gone by do you treasure at Christmas?