Monday, June 12, 2006

My Amanita

She was my grandmother's older sister. Amanita was born and raised right here in Washington, D.C. My grandmother 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. As a matter of 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 hated that!

I was sent to North Carolina for school at age 12 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. I realized then 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 my older, southern cousins called her, which was "Ama-nita" or "Ama-needa" (Aunt + Juanita = Amaneeda). I also found out that she didn’t eat pickles at all. Aunt Juanita liked her Gin. God bless Amanita. Smile


Ananda said...

stephen, this is beautiful ... your auntie sounds like she was quite a diva and caring woman ... i love the pickles ... how wonderful it must be to have memories of a special woman. that's just something special that melts in my heart. aunts really are special folks. and once again, your writing is filled with yin-yang expression ... keep flowing. paz, ananda

Stephen A. Bess said...

Thank you for that! I have this really cool picture of aunt Juanita on my wall. The picture was taken in Chicago during the 1950's. She's sitting at table inside a bar with some friends. She appears to be the life of the party. I love that picture.

Anonymous said...

Good afternoon Stephen! How is all in DC, all in MN is great! :)

Wow, what great memories of a wonderful & caring woman! I love the way I can just picture a little Stephen asking for pickles and not getting any and always wondering why. You write so wonderful, I can just picture the whole story. And as long as you have her memories, she will NEVER be gone. That is the best thing about memories. Our loved ones may not be physically with us, but as long as they live in our memories and hearts, they are never really gone from us. At least that is what I believe. @:+) Thank you for another touching story Stephen!

Stephen A. Bess said...

Hello! All is well here in DC. Thanks for asking. That is so true what you say about our relatives who have passed away. they will always be in our hearts. I'm glad that you enjoyed my little write up. A pleasure as always. :)

Anonymous said...

Wonderful memories, Stephen. I love "Amaneeda" she touched your life in a typical "African Auntie" way. I mean instant-spit-wipes in public and all :) She reminds me of my own Aunt, I called her "Maa" instead of Mamane (meaning Mom's lil Sis) she is exactly like "Amaneeda" Thank God for the love of a great woman. Thanx for sharing Stephen, made me a lil home-sick!!

P.S. Pickles - Vinegar
Gin - Spirit ha ha ha!

Stephen A. Bess said...

LOL! You're always interesting. I'm glad that this post brought about some fond memories for you. :)My grandma Eunice was a younger sister. They called her "Lil-Sis." It sounded much different when local colloquial speech was added. It then became, "Lou-Sis."

NML/Natalie said...

That was a lovely tribute to your aunt that conveyed her warmth and care and your childhood innocence. It's nice to remember those we love that are no longer here.

Stephen A. Bess said...

Thanks! I enjoyed writing it because it brought back so many memories.

a black girl said...

My mother's name is Juanita. I wonder if her future grandshildren will be so creative... (btw she sticks to the strawberry wine coolers).

Stephen A. Bess said...

They'll probably say, "grandma, can I have some of your jolly ranchers?" :)

Michelle said...

She sounds like she was a grand woman! I got a kick out of the always fussing at you comment! When you get a chance, come on over to my blog and let me know what you think about my new book cover for Bulletproof Soul. Hope all is well with you and yours!


Professor Zero said...

Great story, great life--and the pickles are hilarious. It's all so evocative of the era, too. And here comes the academic in me: my immediate reaction was to say, this should be prepared for a less ephemeral publication. Sorry--this is what we call a 'professional deformation', a.k.a. a kneejerk reaction,
professors are always telling people to publish. It's a way of saying, I think this is really unique and good.

Stephen A. Bess said...

Thanks for stopping in. I had a chance to go by your blog. I couldn't leave a comment because blogger was acting up, but I love the new cover!

Yes, sometimes we don't realize how much we love person until they're gone. She was a special lady. I make sure that I tell anyone that comes to our house about her picture and who she is.

I appreciate your very flattering suggestion. I get the same reaction from my wife and some friends who tell me the same. :)My life has finally slowed down so that I can do more writing. I'll keep you and others up to date on my progress.

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