Tuesday, September 18, 2012


When I was a little girl, my mom's best friend, Irene, would come from Hawaii and stay with us for extended periods of time.  She came every summer for a couple of weeks, sometimes longer.  Sometimes she came for holidays or other special occasions.  She always seemed to be nearby.  Then in the early 80s, she moved from Hawaii to San Marcos, CA which was less than 20 minutes from our home in Vista.  
Dollie and Irene
My mom and Irene were lifelong friends.  They met when my mom was in her 20s, living in Hawaii, with her first husband and twin boys.  Both my mom's first husband and Irene's husband were police officers, so the two had a lot in common.  Eventually, my mom divorced her first husband, met and married my dad, and then moved to California.  The ocean was only a minor separation for them.   They talked regularly on the phone, and visited often.  Sometimes, Irene would plan her lengthier trips to coincide with my dad's travel schedule so they could stay up all night talking and laughing.  They were crazy together.  My mom typically wasn't crazy...ever...unless she was with Irene.  They were like sisters.

When Irene was with us, she and my mom mostly stayed close to home, cooking and catching up on all the stories of relatives and friends in Hawaii, but occasionally we would all go out somewhere (shopping, a park, the zoo...)  I remember how irritated they would always get when there was a long line or a huge crowd.  Sometimes there was someone especially slow or frustrating in front of them, and they would want to talk discreetly to each other, so they would slip into what sounded to me like a "secret language."  I never knew what they were saying to each other, but I was always so envious that they had a language no one else could understand.  I think they were speaking Hawaiian, but I really don't know for sure.

Irene always brought gifts with her when she came from Hawaii, mostly food.  Every year for my birthday, she sent me a check for whatever number of years I happened to be turning plus an extra dollar.  (Why can't I make that sentence sound coherent??  When I turned 5, she sent me $5 + an extra dollar.  Get it?)  She did that until I was 18.  

When Irene moved to San Marcos, I visited her all the time.  She loved to play bingo and quilt and read the National Enquirer.  We would run errands or play cards on her porch.  She would send me to get her mail or take care of her plants outside.  And every now and then I would get to go with her to Bingo Tournaments.  I carried her little quilted bag with all of her daubers in it, and sometimes she even let me use them on her cards!  I loved hanging out with her.  

I had no idea when I was growing up, how exactly Irene and I were related.  I knew she was my mom's best friend and I called her Auntie Irene, but I didn't know how she was actually related to me.  Everyone in Hawaii is an auntie or an uncle, and everyone is family, so it didn't really matter.  All I knew was that we had a lot of people come to visit us often, and a LOT of family who totally spoiled me when they came.  I loved Auntie Irene.  My mom and I were both heart broken when Irene passed away in 2004.  I found out in 2010, shortly after both of my parents passed away, why Irene always felt like more than an "auntie."

Dollie was my adopted mom.
Chris is my birth mom.
Irene was Chris' mother.
Pretty cool how things all fit together, huh?  All this remembering makes me think that I had a kind of unusual and amazing childhood.  I had a million aunts and uncles and grandparent figures in my life.  I had no idea how many people were keeping track of me throughout my life, and what an amazing feeling to know it now.  I am so grateful to have had a relationship with this wonderful woman, and on what would have been her 96th birthday (yesterday) I am so happy to be able to remember all those little details that I thought I had forgotten.  

Happy Birthday, Auntie Irene Nanny!  <3


  1. I love that your nanny was stealthily watching over you all of those years like a real live guardian angel!!! I also LOVE that she can be your nanny for eternity, and you will be able to cherish each other FOREVER & EVER!!!

  2. Do you know how much I LOVE finding your footprints all over my blog. I'm so glad you work nights! Thanks for all the love notes, Amy! <3

  3. Ohhhhh, that made me cry a little!

  4. What a wonderful story! You were such a loved little girl! I thank God for caring people like your family!