She was grandma's older sister. I called her Amanita. She was born and raised in Washington, D.C. Grandma once described her as the "party" sister or at least the more adventurous one. She hit all of the hot spots as a young woman in DC during the 1940’s. Her favorite hang out spots were places like, The Howard Theater and bars like The Casbah on U Street. She would outgrow the DC scene and move to Chicago sometime in the 1950’s. She lived on the South Side of Chicago for almost 20 years before moving back to DC in the late 60’s. By the time I came along, Amanita had lived most of her life. She settled down into an apartment on E street in Northeast DC. In fact, her apartment was right across the hall from my grandmother’s place.
Amanita would get me dressed every morning for school when I began kindergarten at Gibbs Elementary in 1972. She would fuss and tug as she tried to get me ready for school in the morning. I would always asked her for some pickles because I could smell them on her breath early in the morning. She would fuss and tell me that she didn’t have any pickles as she put on my jacket to walk me down the street to school. I always wondered why she wouldn’t let me have any pickles?
Eventually, I became old enough to walk to school by myself and Amanita would be on the front stoop everyday when I came home. She would be fussing about something because she was always fussing. Maybe my shirt wasn’t tucked in or I had dirt on my face from recess. She always had a ready thumb full of pickled saliva to wipe away any evidence of dirt. I didn't like that.
In 1979, I was sent to North Carolina for school. I was 12 years old and I only came home to DC during the summer months. Surprisingly, I missed Amanita and all her fussing. I would always go by to see her whenever I came home. She would give me that big, wet auntie kiss and we would catch up on what’s been going on. Well, years passed and Amanita died in 1984 when I was in the 11th grade. For some reason, I wasn’t able to attend her funeral? It took me a week to actually mourn her death. It was one day after school that I began to cry while doing my homework at the dinner table. It was then that I realized how much I loved my Amanita.
In the end, I found out that Amanita’s name was really Juanita. When I was a child I called her exactly what the other children called her, which was "Ama-nita" or "Ama-needa." Now, I realize that they were combining the words Aunt + Juanita = Amaneeda. I also found out that she didn’t eat pickles at all. Aunt Juanita liked her Gin. God bless Amanita.