Last Thursday, Auntie Marianne died. Technically she was was my husband’s aunt, but I felt like she was mine. The moment I married into the family she welcomed me with open arms. At the end of every letter she sent or phone call we had, she told me she loved me and I could feel it. It was genuine. While her affection didn’t make me forget about my loved ones 5,000 miles away, it did make me feel like they’d be happy knowing I had her looking after me. She made my life in London less lonely.
I once described her as having the diction of a Mitford and better posture than the Queen. It’s true. She absolutely did. She was extremely grand. That said, she loved champagne and potato chips on the sofa at home as much as she did high tea and caviar at The Wolseley.
Auntie Marianne was a stickler for manners. The fact that my three year-old said please and thank you and knew the difference between can and may made her very happy. The fact that she also knew how to cut her food with a knife and fork made her beam.
Lessons I already knew but were very important to Auntie: 1) Always write thank you letters. 2) Never show up to anyone’s home empty-handed. 3) If you’re going to get pre-packaged croissants, M&S is better than Waitrose. 4) Always take all the small buds off freesias and spray carnations to get better blooms.
Things I’ll miss about Auntie: 1) The way she’d greet us with an enthusiastic “Hello, my darlings!” whenever we reached her flat at the top of the stairs. 2) The smell of her Bvlgari perfume when she’d give me a hug. 3) Sharing a pot of coffee with her in the Spy Room at Durrants Hotel before lunch and shopping on Marylebone High Street. 4) The way she’d get excited about warm flat bread from the Turkish shop. (Also the way she’d get excited when her horse won the races!) 5) Basking in the sun with her on her roof terrace whilst summer breezes carried the scent of her roses down the street. 6) The way she knitted clothes for my daughter and her toys. 7) The smell of her house when she was making chutney. 8) The way she always listened to jazz. 9) The way she listened to me. 10) The way she never considered me anything less than family.
The last time I saw Auntie Marianne, she was in the hospital but I made her laugh really hard. I am so glad because that’s exactly how I want to remember her. Happy and laughing. Always.
Rest in peace, Auntie, and tell Uncle Peter we miss him. I promise to keep your best recipes alive. I love you.