Letters from Me, Day 21: Gail Beckwith, South Burlington, VT

Dear Gail, 

If you've been keeping up with my Facebook postings for the past few weeks, you may have seen that I'm writing 365 letters to the people that mean a lot to me in my life. When I was making my list of those people, I immediately thought of you. You have always been one of my closest family members, as we've spent some great times with you over the years. You've been a part of celebrations in our lives – big and small.

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I always loved visiting your place when I was little. You took the time to play games with me, read books, watch movies (Mary Poppins over and over again, anyone?) You showed me some of my favorite computer games early on - I remember a digital coloring game you introduced me to where you'd pick different hues and fill sections of a line drawing.

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It wasn't just digital art we did together. You are one of the craftiest, artsiest people I know, and, as a fellow crafter, I've been consistently inspired by your projects over the years. I hope I told you how sweet it was when you packaged up your candleholder project from last year, so that I could make some on my own. I ended up bringing the whole box to my friend Tate's house, and we decorated candleholders all afternoon with her daughters. I so appreciated you passing your creativity onto me, so I could pass it onto them. 

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Not only are you crafty, but you're artistic. Your paintings and works of art over the years have grown more beautiful. And then there's your photography. I've been following you on Picasa for several years - ever since you joined, I think. I used to get updates when you posted to an album, and I could go exploring, seeing the world through your eyes. You have such a penchant for getting great shots - of people, animals, nature, man made structures, and everything in between. I especially love your photos at home, the ones you took of Carl and more recently, of Bana.

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You've been generous with sharing your photos each year as well. At Christmas time, I always look forward to getting your yearly calendar, each with a different theme and a different set of images. This year's close-up animal faces are so gorgeous and unique. We've got a special place in our kitchen where we hang our calendar. This year, we'll be moving and will have to find a new place to hang it up!

I have so many wonderful memories of spending time with you over the years.

You're such a bright light in our family, and I'm always excited to see you when I take a trip to Vermont, or we meet in Queensbury for a weekend trip or summer picnic. I loved that we traveled to Seattle for the same weekend last summer, where we got to explore the city, the farm and the Washington coast. It was such a joy to get to spend a few days with you guys - not only getting to see where Jeff and Sue and Jess and Jake live - but getting to know you and Aunt Eileen just a little bit better. I feel that way every time we spend time together. Since I've been an adult, I haven't gotten to see my Vermont family as much as I'd like (especially since moving to Philly), but I always treasure the time I get with you.

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I fondly remember when you took the trip to come visit me in Philadelphia with my parents. I lived in Bryn Mawr at the time, and you were coming on a mission of great importance - to adopt the cat I'd spent so much of my life with, who was having a hard time with his new home. You were so sweet to him - I knew right away you'd be a perfect adopted mom to him. And you were. You treated him with such love and kindness. He flourished at your house, and spent his final years in comfort and happiness.

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There are so many reasons I adore you, Gail. You are compassionate, smart, creative, funny, kind and loving. You are a great sister, aunt, cousin, friend and pet owner. You make others happy by being yourself, and you live honestly and with great joy. 

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I wish you good things to come - peace of mind, comfort, happiness and adventure. Stay true to yourself, be well and see you very soon!

Love,

Amanda

Letters from Me, Day 18: Eileen Beckwith, South Burlington, VT

Dear Eileen,

You've been my aunt for as long as I can remember...in fact, as long as I've been alive.

And as long as I've been your niece, you've been simply the coolest. Your kindness, generosity and quiet sense of humor have been a constant in my life, no matter how far away we lived from one another.

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When I was younger, just a kid living in Bristol or even once we moved to Queensbury, your house was the fun place to be. You had cool toys to play with, a comfy bed to sleep on, you let me stay up later than my mom and you were fast and loose with the chocolate syrup. I know Josh remembers that last one too. I remember having sleepovers at your house and cooking breakfast in the morning, which always tasted better than at my house, just because I was on "vacation."

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I also looked forward to your trips to Queensbury. You'd often come with Gail and Grandma and we'd picnic in the park or sit around playing games at the kitchen table. You've always felt like an extension of my immediate family, since you were around so much when I was growing up. I always appreciated you helping celebrate my birthday and of course, Christmas.

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The Christmas party, hosted at your place for as long as I can remember, has been a favorite part of our family holiday tradition. It was the one time of year that all (or most) of the family could commit to getting together, to being in one place, to sharing their joy, to seeing how kids were growing, to eating and drinking for hours. And of course, we all love the Card Game. I don't know if it has a name, an official, Christmas-y name. Because I've always known it simply as the Card Game. Every year, you make sure to have dozens of presents, all wrapped up in boxes, large and small. And every year, we somehow end up vying for the same one and John and Ted steal it from everyone and my dad laughs really loudly when people get huffy, and then one of the little ones takes it and carries it around the room for 5 minutes and we all smile. Every year, the presents help make Christmas special. The amazing spread you guys put together makes Christmas special. Being together makes Christmas special. And you have always worked hard to make that happen.

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You've also worked hard for another holiday - well, it's not really a holiday, so much as a party. The summer picnic at my parents’ house has been going on for what - 16 years? 17? And you've been to all but one, I believe. (There was a very important Red Sox game one year, and I will fully attest to the priority that is a very important Red Sox game.) Every year you've come to the picnic, you've arrived early, usually with some food you've made in hand, ready to help set up, play games, snack on appetizers and when it comes to be lunch time - become...the Grill Master. I don't know how you got the job so many years ago, but that's another tradition in our lives. You always make the best cheeseburgers and chicken and hotdogs and you keep the fire going until everyone is happy and fed.

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I love our time together, Aunt Eileen.

I love that you guys came to Seattle when we visited the Washington Beckwiths last summer and we got to explore the city, the country, the coast and everything in between. I love that you still come to Queensbury to do Christmas shopping with my mom every year. I love that you have taken the time to get to know and celebrate each one of your sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews, in-laws and once-removed-twice-removed-thrice-removed cousins. You are truly a beautiful spirit, and someone I'm lucky to have in my family. 

I look forward to more fun times this year and for the years to come - in Vermont, in New York or wherever life happens to take us. (Philly? Boston? PARIS?!) You will always be in my heart, no matter how long it's been since we've seen each other. Wishing you all the best things and lots of joy.

Love,

Amanda