Inspiration /Aunt Burpa and the Pretzels
(story written by Marta’s youngest son, looking back)

How much we truly remember from our early childhood is uncertain. Others who were there tell us many stories about what we did and said. We may begin to think that we remember, whether we do or not. These recollections about my Aunt Bertha weave in and out between my Mom’s memories and mine.

I was about four when Aunt Bertha came into our world. I could not pronounce her name, so I resorted to "Aunt Burpa," I always used her name, "Aunt Burpa," to get her attention. Hearing that name she would smile at me, and I think there was a twinkle in her eyes.

Our Mom filled us in, with bits and pieces, about Aunt Bertha during that first week. "My Aunt Bertha is a very special person," my mom said. "When I was your age she was like Santa Claus all year long. She had never married. Your grandmother told me Aunt Bertha had a boyfriend who died. When I knew her, Aunt Bertha was grown, working, and managed her expenses. She would always bring me a present when she visited. She was the only grown up who would sit down on the floor with me and play my games for hours. We had lots of tea parties, put puzzles together, and laughed at our private jokes. Now Aunt Bertha is much older and not well. She will be living with us for maybe a long time. She needs someone to care for her, and I will do this. Sometimes she may do unusual things, which she can’t help. I’m counting on you to understand and help me be patient with her. I know you don’t remember her as she used to be, but I do."

Aunt Burpa and I got along just fine. When she first came to stay she would play some of my simple games. We laughed together, maybe like she did with my Mom. Sometimes we would look at my picture books, sitting close on the couch. I pretended to read each page, and I think she bought it that I could. I liked it when we played hide and seek, but I had to make it easy for her to find me. We were buddies and spent a lot of time together. That’s how I became my Mom’s helper. When Aunt Burpa would not follow Mom’s request, she would ask me to get Aunt Burpa by the hand and lead her. She usually did what I asked her to do.

My hyperactivity figures into the Pretzel Story. Hundreds of times I have heard, "You only slept two hours out of twenty-four when we brought you home from the hospital, if we were lucky." How could that be? I would sleep nine or ten now if I could. According to my Reporter Mom, I never took a nap and I stayed up long after my brothers were in bed. It must have taken some fast talking on her part to explain to them that I was allowed to stay up. Aunt Burpa took her medicine with a snack before she went to bed. I was wide awake and always ready for a snack, so I joined her.

My all time favorite was pretzels, small, crisp, and twisted. Every night Aunt Burpa and I sat at the kitchen table. She had different things to eat, but mostly cookies were her choice.

Every night I would offer her a pretzel, holding one out to her. Every night she would say, very politely, "No thank you, I don’t care for one."

I would try again, "Aunt Burpa, they are very good. Just try one."

"I don’t believe so, thank you," was her reply.

Every night, and every night, this ritual was performed, for the years she was with us. She never tasted a pretzel and I never quit offering.

Nothing lasts forever. The time came when I said good-bye to Aunt Burpa and our nightly rituals. I had grown older, and she younger. She went to a home where persons would care for her needs better than we could. I may be the only person who caught glimpses of the Aunt Bertha who played with my Mom when she was a little girl. For a window in time she was also my friend.

My favorite snack is still thin, crisp, and twisted pretzels.

Notes from Marta:

A Bible verse, "A little child shall lead them," comes to mind.

What childlike qualities can we adopt as we deal with life, and especially with the older people in our world?

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