My aunt Carolyn

I don’t usually post items so personal. Something so removed from my classic film thoughts. But as my family will come together today to honor my aunt Carolyn’s life, I felt compelled to share a few thoughts of my own.

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My aunt Carolyn…

A summation of one’s life cannot be judged on only one slant of their personality, nor on the declining years if they battled health challenges. We are complex, or even mysterious to our closest loved ones, and Carolyn was no exception. As the oldest grandchild growing up with six aunts, who range from 5 years older than myself to a bit older than my parents, Carolyn was the eldest, and the head of the “coven.”

I wondered, if being the oldest daughter when your parents have 7 children, was the reason as to why she never married and never had children. My understanding is that she was engaged, more than once. Perhaps she grew weary of being taskmaster. But then again, she also seemed to love having her brood of younger siblings, nieces, nephews, etc. to extoll her outspoken opinions, advice and direction.

When I think of Carolyn, I recall what a beauty she was. There are several pictures of her from her youth that I distinctly recall. I was impressed that she looked so much like Elizabeth Taylor in those photos. Like me, she had fondness for old movies and many of our conversations would center on that. She was fortunate enough to travel many times in her life, to many cool and exotic places. She possessed the family trait for archiving, as can be seen in her many genealogy binders that she and her sisters would work on. It wasn’t until I came to her townhouse to help organize her personal possessions for an estate sale, that I discovered she had archived her entire life. In surprisingly INCREDIBLE detail. It was as though she needed us to know every aspect of her life. Of its significance. For posterity.

While she may have been known for her inflammatory and nearly combative rhetoric in her later years by the younger generations of her family, I also recall her immense kindness. She had a heart of gold when you were lucky enough to be the recipient, which I was upon many occasions. As our parents split in the mid 70s, my sister and I briefly stayed at a house in Westport, up the street from Guardian Angels church- the first floor belonged to Bob Daniels, the 2nd floor to Carolyn, and the attic apartment to my father. It was a lot more fun to sneak down to Carolyn’s and spy on her. Perhaps to ask her a million annoying questions, as kids often do at that age. It was around this time that I was obsessed with anything on ancient Egypt. Carolyn seemed to share my passion and gave me a coloring book, brimming with images reflecting the walls of the pyramids. She was kind enough to notice my interests and that means a lot to a kid going through hard transitions.

Carolyn also inherited the family trait of creativity and artistic skill. She was a very good artist. I was always fascinated by her latest projects, but it was her large portrait of her sister Debi that stays with me as her best work. I know she played a heavy hand in my lifelong appreciation for art.

Ultimately, one of my favorite memories of Carolyn is at Christmas time at Gardner Lake. In my childhood, we often would spend a chunk of the holiday season at my grandparents’ house. As a kid, I would get excited to see all of my aunts and cousins. Holidays meant crowded chaos, and I loved every minute of it. Sometimes I was a bit jealous of the big family dynamic- how cool to have that many sisters! But I never felt completely on the frayed edge. We were in the family, too. We’d pile in to that little cottage, sleeping on any spot available, from the floor, to a couch, to an old army cot. We’d play board games and Grandma would cook up a storm- leaving an orange and an Archie’s comic book in my sock, dangling from a hook. But I’ll always remember Carolyn skillfully taking the time to work on a beautiful gingerbread house with us. That memory stays with me, too.

In her later years, we didn’t always agree. If she dropped an especially painful insult, I would call her out on it. To call her “feisty” is an understatement. But that’s not the whole picture. There are many strong, intelligent, and yes, BEYOND feisty women in my family. They don’t always rub people the right way, but I’m forever grateful for them. They helped mold who I am today- and helped me pass on these traits to my own daughters. Everyone has their own snapshot into the mysteries of a person’s life. She cared for me. I cared for her. That’s the Carolyn I remember.

Carolyn Jeanne Shindler (December 25, 1943 – September 21, 2019)

 

Comments

  1. Hi Kellee. When we have women in our families like this, especially for so long, to recognize the blessings and importance is paramount. How awesome too is your daughters knowing her too! I’m sure they’ve learned from her more than they can realize right now! This is a lovely tribute and this way we cherish her memories with you. ❤ ~Tonya

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am so sorry, Kellee. My parents had me later in life, so I have already lost all of my aunts and uncles. It is never easy. And your Aunt Carolyn sounds like a wonderful woman. I am glad your daughters got to know her! This is such a lovely memorial to her.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hey Kellee…what a lovely and touching tribute to one of the Feisty Women in your life. She had loves…and traveled…and a large family to love, care for and get in line. A life well~lived.Your tribute touched me. xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

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