Kay Math is a wonder and a beloved aunt. In addition to parenting her five children, she is a mom to many of her nieces and nephews, including me. She taught me how to bake, sew, iron, shuck corn, slice a tomato and churn butter. By example, she demonstrated how to be a gracious hostess and a positive person. Above all, she showed me what a mom looks like. I had one, but she was unconventional in every way, and she wasn’t dependable. Aunt Kay was June Cleaver only better because you could be a part of every episode of her life.
Aunt Kay was good at everything, or so it seemed to a ten-year-old. She beat me every time we played tennis. She helped me rip dozens of wayward cloth seams and start over at the sewing machine. Family dinner was the centerpiece of her day. There were so many children at the kitchen table that we looked like packed sardines. I was always amazed that eight and occasionally nine people could arrive in the same spot at the same time. Aunt Kay made dinner every night, and it was good, and it was still warm by the time you dug in. And she smiled and spoke to each of us. When she got to me, I thought the sun and the moon were mine for an instant.
She threw parties to mark every milestone as I grew: Sweet 16, high school graduation, engagement. Each celebration featured an elegant setting: white linen table-cloth, colorful assortments of lilies, tall tapered candles, polished silver, and napkins embroidered at the edges. She ordered a white sheet cake filled with fresh strawberries and covered in white butter cream for each occasion.
I visit Aunt Kay nearly every summer with my children. She makes blueberry pie and churns butter with my children Matt and Emma. Then she uses the remaining milk to make buttermilk pancakes. She whips up the best mashed potatoes, lemon chicken, meatballs, stuffed peppers and cookies. Last summer, I polished off two lemon chicken cutlets for breakfast because they were too good to wait until lunch to eat.
Aunt Kay recently moved to a retirement community. She can’t hear well and she repeats herself a lot. Her memory comes and goes, but when she is energized she’s her old self, only better. I’ve heard more zingers pop of her mouth in the span of a few days than I heard in all our previous decades together combined. I had no idea how funny she is. One more thing to add the long list of her remarkable attributes.
She is our mom. I can’t imagine our family without her.