Posts Tagged ‘100 year celebration’

The Tribe of Kohuts…..

September 27, 2012

Earlier this month, we traveled to central New Jersey for the 100th Birthday Celebration of my dear Aunt Jean. We drove because I insisted on taking one of our few French pumpkins from our garden, jams and jellies and eggs from our hens as gifts to my aunt. That was a long trip, but having a car made it possible to make day trips out into the countryside to see what changes 20 years of absence had made. The poem ” The Homecoming” tells of just a few of those changes we found.

Most importantly, there were 75 plus people attending, cousins, relatives in some way, but people I had not seen in 23 and 50 years. Of course, I had never met many of the grown children from my cousins, and there were plenty in attendance. So many people remembered my father and related stories to us about him. He was well loved in his lifetime and hearing people, I was once again struck how special he was. He’s been gone for 23 years this November, but his presence was in the room; he was that loved.

There were many long-gone relatives in that banquet room. Uncle John and Aunt Margaret, Sonny’s father and mother, an uncle who was the essence of kindness, his pockets filled with candies which he rustled and we children came running like kittens; Aunt Margaret who would take me on a train to NY for lunch, first washing my face to make me presentable; Uncle Zoltan and Aunt Pauline, who stepped in to parent me when my father died. They loomed large in my life when I felt lost. Uncle Louis, Aunt Jean’s dear husband, who was my father’s favorite brother; Aunt Bubbie, Uncle Mac, Aunt Irene and Uncle Lee…so many people gone, an entire generation, with only Aunt Nancy and Aunt Jean left to herd the rest of us through life.

My Aunt Jean, at 100, was glowing, strong and full of life: beautiful, witty, and one I wouldn’t get into any political argument. That was the general impression I got from other relatives. At 100, Aunt Jean can hold her own.

She uses a wheeled walker, but watching her, you can see she walks faster than that walker. I also saw her put aside the walker, and shove a heavy chair out of her way. There is strength and life in this 100 year young woman.

Over the years, because of distance (we are in Atlanta) and other things, I had missed the Xmas parties every year, had not extended myself to the various cousins, was sure that no one would remember me. I was very wrong. My oldest cousin, Sonny (John) Kohut, the son of my father’s oldest brother (dead) and his adorable wife, Marylou immediately embraced us. We didn’t have name tags on, but it didn’t seem to matter. I was Al Kohut’s only daughter and that was enough for this tribe.

Aunt Jean has been instrumental in my writing life: over the past 5 years she has read every poem I have sent her, and I thanked her in my last book, “White Cranes of Heaven”. She deserved thanking and more because I sent her just about everything I wrote. She complained every time my letters didn’t include some poetry. Apparently, she also passed some of these poems around the family, so I wasn’t such a stranger there.

Over the years, Aunt Jean has become “Mother Jean” and I her ‘daughter”. She also has her own daughter, Pam , and I gain a sister here. I was receiving two and sometimes three letters a week from her. Aunt Jean writes around 50 letters a month all over the world to relatives. The Kohuts are Hungarian,(Aunt Jean tells me ‘closer to the Czech side’) and most of them are bi-lingual. My Hungarian would have my tongue ripped out by wolves: it is that bad.

Mother Jean saw a daughter sorely in need of a functioning family. Her embrace of me has made all the difference in my life. She saw a woman desperately in need of the love of her tribe and made it possible in so many ways. A compassionate belief in the goodness of life and living, a fortitude against evil, and a remarkable ability to embrace the needs of others.

We came from this celebration deeply reconnected with a tribe of people who were loving and caring. The next book will be dedicated to this tribe and I will attempt to remember them for what they gave us that weekend.

It is good to belong somewhere after all these years of doubt. I am very proud of my Hungarian heritage, and my Aunt Jean has helped me feel the strength of it.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2012

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