Sorry for the lack of posts last month, our wonderful Aunt died at the age of 88. She was born in 1928, a year that included: Leon Trotsky being arrested in Moscow; John Logie Baird broadcasting a transatlantic television signal between the USA and UK; heavy hail killing 11 people; the voting age for women being reduced from aged 30 to 20; Amelia Erhart making the first transatlantic solo flight by a woman; Margaret mead publishes Coming of Age in Samoa and Republican primary elections in Chicago were preceded by violence, bombings and assassination attempts (violence in Chicago republican primary, isn’t it interesting how history repeats itself).
Our aunt and uncle once ran a café on Easter road, another uncle ran a bar/function hall at Abbeyhill and I we are very proud of our Leither routes. In the war years, Leithers had it tough. My mother lost a grandfather in the first-world-war (killed in action), a father to the second-world-war (who after the war choose to settle with another women in England) and a mother to an early death. Hence, my mother, her brother and sister didn’t have the greatest start to life. They had to find their own way in the world at a time where the welfare state was only just emerging. My aunt, as the oldest of the three, took the lead role in ensuring her younger siblings fared ok and throughout her life she was the key matriarch on my mother’ side of the family.
My aunt had an exceptional memory and was the keeper of the family oral history. She also ensured that we children always felt loved, appreciated and respected. In particular she would buy us the nosiest and most fun toys. I specifically remember one Christmas where myself and my siblings madly ran round her flat on Dublin Street dressed in western gear firing six shooter cap guns and imagining we were taking part in some range war. Risk averse parents should note, this was an extremely liberating experience, particularly as our own parents were very strict.
After the funeral, one of my cousins took the time to tell me that my aunt loved me very much and I greatly appreciated this because I loved her just as much back. Indeed, I now realise that my aunt not only loved us unconditionally she was the only adult in our early life who never told us off, never tried to punish us, nor, did things that injured our feelings (never even accidently). She instinctively practiced children’s rights before they were fashionable or enshrined in law.
She gave us the courage to stand up to inequality, injustice and bullying. For example, she never put up with any of my father’s petulant behaviour and she didn’t expect us to put up with him just because he was an adult. So when people try to tell you that in days-gone-by it was just part of the culture that children were mistreated – don’t believe them. There have always been women like my aunt setting the highest standards for how children should be treated and also creating the circumstances and environments where children can just be themselves. In addition to setting high standards regarding our treatment, my aunt gave the best hugs of any person I ever met – children benefit from such warmth – it nurtures their soul.