April 9, 2010

Missing in Sausalito

This time of year always makes me think of my long departed Aunt Dorothy. She lived across the San Francisco Bay in Sausalito since World War II until she passed away in the 1980s.

My Aunt Dorothy was a great lady who loved, absolutely loved, people. She owned a shop in the Village Mayfair near the Sausalito Harbor. Her tiny shop sold all sorts of items made by local craftsmen. Most of her customers were tourists.

Whenever I would visit with Aunt Dorothy, she loved to tell me about the people she met, where they were from and what they loved about her shop.

Her shop was called The Shoestring. She named it that because it literally was the size of a shoe string. It was very narrow. She also ran it on a shoestring budget. Her father was an shipping executive who got his ten kids and family successfully through the Depression by running a tight household. I think she paid attention and learned from him.

After I graduated college, she shared with me how much the building management had changed at the Village Mayfair. She explained the many changes in ownership and how the new owners cared more about revenue than the quality of merchandise being sold.

My Aunt Dorothy cared a lot about selling items that represented the Bay Area and its creative residents. She loved the notion of how she shared our beautiful landscape with people who didn't live here. I couldn't tell you how often I helped her wrap and send merchandise overseas because her customer couldn't take their purchase on the plane. She loved that part of the sale, as much as making the sale.

I wonder if she had been more mercenary, she would have lasted longer? She had her shop for more than 25 years. Every day you could find her 1955 White Ford T-Bird parked upstairs, covered with business cards of interested buyers. She didn't sell that car, which she had owned from the day she bought it, until the very end of her life.

After her shop was sold, my Aunt Dorothy slowed down. She knew she couldn't drive anymore, so she sold her pride and joy soon after she moved into assisted living. This time of year makes me think of my Aunt Dorothy because this is when I used to visit her.

In April the sun finally comes out more. The temperatures in Sausalito would be climbing so that we could sit outside on a bench together without freezing our legs off. The bay sparkles on sunny days, like it is filled with diamonds. We could sit for long periods of time and just stare at the bay and across the water towards San Francisco. Like most of her sisters, my Aunt Dorothy loved the water.

I love and miss my Aunt Dorothy. She was an independent woman until the end. After her second husband passed away in the 1960s she took care of herself. I admired her. She showed me you could travel, live a good life and be happy without being married. As a teenager and then in college, it comforted me to see her example in action.

Here's to Aunt Dorothy! I still remember her cute Hershey Kiss silver pendant that she loved to wear because of how fun it was, and a conversation piece for customers.

After her passing, my mother asked me if I wanted anything from Aunt Dorothy's belongings. I didn't think of the pendant but it was her sweet sophisticated Mademoiselle doll. The one who kept her company all those years in the store is the only gem I really cared about.


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