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My Aunt Violet will be buried tomorrow in Kansas, just a few feet away from my mom and grandparents. Even though I won't be there, my heart goes out to my Kansas kin, and my memories fly back to my favorite memory of my Aunt Violet.

The year I was in fourth grade, my dad was on an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean, and mom and we kids were on my grandparent's farm in Kansas. At Thanksgiving, when the aunts and uncles were around, I told mom that I wanted a doll for Christmas, and she went off on a rant about how I was too old for dolls, I already had dolls, we had too much stuff for a Navy family that moves a lot, and so on. Well, mom never liked dolls, and she just didn't get it. So I tried as best I could, as a second grader, to get over it. No more dolls for me, ever.

At Christmas once again the extended family gathered at the farm. Aunts, uncles, cousins, wonderful food, happy conversation; those farm gatherings were far and away the best and happiest holidays I ever had as a child. Dad was never there, so there was no parental cold war raging around us, just happy people enjoying each other's company. At the Christmas gathering, the extended family used a gift exchange: everyone had drawn a name from a hat, so each person got one gift.

That year Aunt Violet got my name.

When I opened my package, there was the most beautiful Raggedy Ann I had ever seen. Aunt Violet had made her for me. I picked up that doll and burst into tears. The relatives, including Aunt Violet, were at first shocked and concerned. Then, when they realized they were tears of joy, were pleased if somewhat taken aback at my reaction.

Over the years I have reminisced to Aunt Violet, and to her daughter, my cousin Nancy, about how much that doll meant to me. At that, I'm not sure Aunt Violet ever really understood how much that doll affected me, and what a prized possession she was, right down to the "I love you" heart embroidered on her chest.


Aunt Violet just had her 90th birthday last month, with children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren all around. Many of them have beautiful quilts and such that she made over the years, but I still have my Raggedy Ann, and consider myself a very lucky woman to have had an aunt who cared enough to give me not just the doll I yearned for, but also, at a time when my own family was down and depressed, the concept that the future would sometimes bring me wonderful and happy surprises.

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