I've been away awhile, but I'm back - again. This time I was away for a very sad occasion.
This week I had to say good bye to my 'other' mother Vernoica Lunga. She passed away quietly in her sleep last Thursday night. She was a beautiful woman who, with her husband Joe, met me when I was only 5 years old. I lived with them until I was 22 years old.
It all started with 'Friendly Town', a summer program sponsored by the Fresh Air Fund. The program was designed to send inner city children from ages 5-14 to the 'country'. For some, that meant summer camp while others (me, in particular) went to host families. I spent my summers, and eventually my winter recesses with Joe (Big Joe), Veronica (Aunt Ron) and their two children, Cyndy and Joe (Joey to me then, but Joe now).
At 14 I was too old for Friendly Town, and my visits to the Lunga home sadly came to an end. Or so I thought. The Lungas had different ideas, and after some discussion with my mother I went to live with the them. Those were fun packed times.
Part of my summer vacation was spent picking (and eating) the cherries from the tree in Gege and Pop's back yard, and I ate ice cream from the 'world famous' Pat Mitchell's Ice Cream Parlor and family vacations spent at Sylvan Beach in a cottage in Utica, New York.
Dobrenoc, sol i pieprz, widelec, jak sie masz, and Szczesliwego Bozego Narodzenia are just a few words and phrases I learned living with the Lungas - and pardon my spelling if you are a polish speaking person. Polish, while not my second language, was the fun one I learned during my summers with them.
It was with Cyndy and Joey that I made my first snow angels, ate donuts from Elk's Bakery and drank hot chocolate after ice skating, which I learned there. I even had my own tricycle which I would have had to share with my sister and brother at home.
During those years I went from city urchin to 'country bumpkin', walking outside with no shoes on, had my own inflatable swimming pool (filled with bubbles) in the back yard, and played dress up with my new best friends, Melody and Tina. It was there with the Lungas that I saw the 'real' Santa Claus. All firsts for me.
Every morning before she left for work, she would put a bowl of cereal (minus the milk, of course) and a cup of orange juice on the kitchen table for me. I always put the cereal back in the box and drank the juice.
So it is with a heavy, heavy heart that I had to say good bye to Aunt Ron this week. She passed away quietly and peacefully in her sleep this past Thursday night. I had to say good bye to my 'other' mother. The one who combed my hair, put band aids on my boo-boos, taught me how to say my prayers.
She loved me during my teen aged years with my angst and crankiness. She loved me even though I missed curfew a few (hundred) times, introduced me to new foods, and told me stories about 'the old country' (Poland). She always had a story to tell and all the stories had a moral.
I will miss her and everything about her, and I am thankful to have known her and Big Joe and to still have the extended family they provided me.
I love you all.