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A Year of Firsts, Changes and a Goodbye

December 28, 2019

Man, one minute it’s September and you think you’re going to be burning up the keyboard with blog posts…and the next, it’s almost January and you’re left scratching your head at the breakneck speed of time from September through December 25th. It’s been a hell of a quarter.

I took my first college class since the 1980’s and got my first F. (Not my final grade, thank God!) Live long enough and you experience everything.  I got to help celebrate my Uncle Richard’s 90th birthday, helped my daughter move to Seattle and said “Be seeing you,” which felt much more permanent than her college move ever did.

Then on November 2, 2019, I got the sad news that my Aunt Blanche Tunno had passed away. How do you say goodbye to one of your very favorite aunts, and your last living connection to your mom?

Aunt Blanche in 1995.

Aunt Blanche was my mom’s little sister and my God-mother.  She was a tough, little, Italian Annie Oakley who prided herself on being able to shoot passers-by in the cuolo, with her BB gun when she was a kid.  She wore jeans way before Elvis and played “Down on the Levee,” on the guitar for me when I was little.

She saved me and my cousin Nancy from drowning in Lake Erie once, and showed me that cooking with love, apparently meant slamming a chicken down on the counter quite a few times before final preparations. And her pie crusts were flaky heaven.

She loved the National Enquirer and could tell you her version of the whole Royals story, beginning to end, with a flourish only Aunt Blanche could muster.

But fairy tales were her forte. Once you heard Aunt Blanche read a fairy tale, you never quite forgot it. Her version of The Three Little Pigs went something like this:

Aunt Blanche: So the three little pigs all built houses. The first little pig was a dumbass and built his house out of straw. The big bad wolf came and blew his house right down. So he ran to the next little pig’s house, but he was a dumbass too because he built his house out of wood. The big bad wolf huffed and puffed and blew that house down too. So they ran like hell to their brother’s house. But he was smart. He was a bricklayer and built his house out of bricks.

That damned wolf huffed and puffed, but couldn’t blow the house down. So he decided to climb down the chimney. Those pigs got smart. They had a big pot of boiling water waiting for him, and when he came down that chimney, they kicked his ass and threw him in the pot. And that was the end of him.  And that’s the story of the three little pigs.

She was so funny in her Italian, Pittsburgh, wild west way. I’ve never met another like her.

Aunt Blanche was buried in pants, a western style belt with a big buckle, and a western style shirt with a rooster on each front panel where pockets would have been. My cousin Rich gave a masterful eulogy she would have loved. I don’t know how he managed it, since I tear up over McDonald’s commercials.

She would have been happy to know that her daughter, Nancy and my sister, Mary fixed her face and hair, so she looked great in the casket with not a mustache hair in sight.  As I patted her soft, black hair and kissed her goodbye, I knew it was the end of an amazing line. God bless you Aunt Blanche.

I am way behind in recipe sharing, but those will come in my next post, in a day or two. This one is devoted to Aunt Blanche, who was kick-ass before the word even started being used.

If you’re lucky enough to have loving family that’s still around, ask questions, record them, spend time with them, love them and write down their classic lines. You won’t regret it.

I wish you the best 2020 filled with love, laughter, luck, prosperity and some good fairy tales. Enjoy!

  • Reply
    daedae51
    January 11, 2020 at 2:24 pm

    What a wonderful childhood you had with the wonderful ladies in your life, thank you for sharing.

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      January 14, 2020 at 9:04 am

      Thank you!!! You know, I never realized how lucky I was as a kid, but I sure do now. It was a really fun family to grow up in. I feel very blessed.

  • Reply
    carolyn riley
    January 8, 2020 at 4:24 pm

    A great tribute to a great lady! I am glad I had the opportunity to meet and interact with her several times over the years. She was a wild woman and was much loved by your family.

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      January 8, 2020 at 7:05 pm

      Awww, thank you Car for reading and taking the time to write. She was very cool!

  • Reply
    Chas Madonio
    December 30, 2019 at 11:48 am

    Glad to see you’re back to writing. I thought maybe you had retired. Humorous and touching tribute, but I’m a bit confused. If she was your mother’s sister, why was her last name Tunno? Did she marry your dad’s brother?

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      December 30, 2019 at 2:13 pm

      Yep, she did. Uncle Richard is my Dad’s brother. Aunt Blanche was my mom’s sister. Having double cousins is great, you don’t have to explain anything, you all get it because you all have the same relatives!

      • Nicol Z
        January 1, 2020 at 9:12 am

        Oh wow, I never noticed this or knew that! How fascinating!

  • Reply
    Nicol Z
    December 30, 2019 at 11:04 am

    Oh Fran, Aunt Blanche would have loved your kick-ass tribute to her. Thank you for sharing her with us.

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      December 30, 2019 at 2:11 pm

      Thanks Nicol, I think she might be smiling about it somewhere. I appreciate you always reading and responding! xoxox

  • Reply
    JoAnn
    December 29, 2019 at 6:36 am

    Love the many stories you write about, Fran, such wonderful memories of the family we are blessed to be a part of. Thank you for sharing with us. 😘 Aunt Mary & Aunt Blanche will always be in our hearts.

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      December 29, 2019 at 2:08 pm

      Thank you JoAnn, for taking the time to read and to write. They were definitely two who I will never forget. Glad you feel that way too. I hope you got my Christmas card. We are immortalized with that God-awful tree. 🙂

  • Reply
    Monica Muehsam
    December 29, 2019 at 5:20 am

    What a lovely tribute, Fran- I would have liked to meet her, she sounds like a woman way ahead of her time.

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      December 29, 2019 at 2:06 pm

      Monica, you would have loved her. Really funny and didn’t even know it. Thanks for always reading. Now I must go make one of your fabulous cocktails and get out of my whiskey and ginger ale rut!

  • Reply
    Mary
    December 28, 2019 at 3:09 pm

    Another great tribute as usual, Fran. Aunt Blanche was a firecracker, like “our” mother. All those sisters were. 🙂
    Funny.

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      December 29, 2019 at 12:08 am

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment Mary, that always means a lot to me. She was, all those sisters were, and they are all missed. We were so lucky to have them for the short time we did.

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