Clara Marion Anderson Abbott

Clara Anderson 1940s

My aunt, Clara Abbott, turned 88 a few days ago.  She was born on February 25, 1933, during the depth of the Great Depression.  She was a teenager and young woman in 1940s and 1950s America.  Those years were dominated by World War II, McCarthyism, post-war conformity, and social mobility. They also seeded change in the decades to follow by the exodus of families from cities to the suburbs, and the magnetic attraction to cities by bohemians, intellectuals and the marginalized. It was the beginning of fractured America:  two dominant strains traveling in different directions.

Aunt Clara grew up in a rural area. Life in the country gave her a love of fresh vegetables, gardens, and animals. I told her that she has the family “green thumb” for her flourishing herbs and tomatoes. Deer and stray cats often come by her patio for a visit and something to eat in the winter.

Aunt Clara is a classic beauty, the prettiest of my mother’s sisters.  That is quite a compliment, since the Andersons were an exceptionally good- looking family. I can easily see her standing on a mountainside in Norway.

Helen, Ernest, Clara Anderson (bride)

My mom told me years ago that Aunt Clara used to play the organ at her (Methodist) church. Her son, John, “Jay,” is a musician and teacher.

Aunt Clara is also an accomplished sewist and cook.  During our Sunday telephone calls, we look forward to hearing what she’s cooking for dinner. I will always treasure the clipped and printed recipes that she has sent over the years.

I didn’t know her very well when I was growing up, but as an older adult I came to appreciate and respect her qualities of character—independence, resourcefulness, and resilience. At 88 she still cooks for herself and often for others. She takes care of her house and yard. I saw through her example how elderly people can avoid inner calcification: awareness of others. Aunt Clara often brought homemade soup, cookies, or a meal to her homebound neighbor, and made sure that she was OK.  As I age, I have learned from her how to grow older well.  A great gift, and one that I thank and bless her for every day.

Some years ago, she used to joke about winning the lottery and buying a house in Greenport.  It didn’t happen, and she has never seen Greenport.  She liked my stories about getting fresh fruit and vegetables from the farms and being close to the land and sea.  I would have enjoyed having her nearby, but it was one of those wishes that was nice to think about from time to time, but eventually tucked away.





1 Comment

By Karen