Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A German Rose.

Hello lovely friends. I know I've been a tad cryptic in my last few posts. It's been a bit of an emotional time for me so I wanted to share a little bit of what has been going on in my life. Allow me to back up for a moment.

As many of you know, my mother was born and raised in W├╝rzburg, Germany—she was an unexpected little bundle (her two sisters, Maria and Anneliese were around 17 and 16 when she was born). Their mother passed away when my mom was only 13 and so Maria became a real mother figure to her. When my mom was 16 she immigrated to the states to live with Tante Maria and Onkle Max in Michigan.

The Winter Girls: Maria and Brigitte (my mother).

Next to my mother, Tante Maria has had an enormous influence on my life. Growing up she was a bit of a tomboy—adventurous, strong-willed, with a great zest for life. She was always an amazing gardener and knows pretty much every wild flower and plant you can imagine. She adores animals and was one of those people who would nurse injured birds to health and could feed wild rabbits and squirrels right out of her hand. On top of this she was also very artistic and chic as can be—she only wore Chanel No 5 or Nina Ricci. Yep, she was always a super cool lady.

Tante Maria has always defied getting older. While her skin showed signs of age, tan and wrinkled from years outside, she refused to go grey and loved to dressed up (when she wasn’t out in her garden). On her 80th birthday she climbed on top of a huge jungle gym at the playground and took a photo of herself coming down the slide “sliding into 80.” She also did somersaults and even played catch with Wolfie (who was 3 at the time).

Throughout her life she has always had a bad/irregular heart, but she refused to let it get her down and to be honest I never even knew it was an issue til recently. Last week, her heart finally caught up with her and she was hospitalized. We were told she had 3 days….3 weeks….maybe a month. I dropped everything and flew to Michigan to be with the family. It was extremely difficult seeing her in the hospital. She is quite frail and disoriented and so not herself. She was happy to see me and I’m so very glad I made the trip. She is still with us (once again defying the odds) but we’re not sure for how long. I wanted to share some images of her that I think capture her spirit and are how I know she would love to be remembered.

She and my Onkle Max having a beer in the backyard in Germany…I forgot to mention she played piano by ear and also the accordian—she would always say “I know it's not cool to your generation but back in my day this was THE instrument to play!” She is also an amazing whistler. I love that about her.

Climbing up this rock wall in her sundress….I love it! I did a close up so you could see her expression, but the wall was actually rather high up! No clue who that gent is.

The wedding. There is a great story about her outfit. As you can see the dress was made of a thick beautiful creamy satin. Her huge bouquet was also very unusual for the time. At the reception (which was held at her parents flat) everyone was dancing and she said “Whew, it is hot in here!” She began to unbutton the little buttons at the neck of her gown…and then to everyone’s shock kept right on unbuttoning. And unbuttoning. With a flourish that nearly gave some of the older guests a heart attack, she pulled the whole thing off and revealed that it was actually a little jacket—and the dress underneath was strapless! She danced the night away in style. Quite a lady, I tell ya. I've seen the dress and it's gorgeous.

She looks so Kate Spade here....in Germany with my cousin Maggie.

Tante Maria was a fabulous hostess and we always had really great parties at their house. Please note the Bunny cake. I’m guessing this was Easter...unless someone had a real fondess for rabbits and requested a special cake!

Check out the white go-go boots. Ooh lala! My cousin's First Communion.

Getting ready to fly to Miami for the holidays. Max treated them to First Class that visit. Dig that airplane! Max and Maria always seemed so glamorous to me.

Being of the 1950s generation, Maria was the consummate housekeeper and her home was always immaculate. This was one of my favorite rooms in their house. The walls were a deep lavender purple and the shades were purple and chartreuse green striped (so “now”!). Love that lamp and couch too.

Uncle Max, me, my cousin Maggie, Maria. The outfits.....the outfits!

This is her vanity. I have always looooved that amazing crystal set. It was

a wedding present from Max. This is an image I will always associate with her.

I love you Tante Maria. You are such an inspiration.


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  1. she is incredible.

  2. I am deeply touched.

    I want to cry!

    I love this lady and I do not even know her.

    Thank you for sharing your history and this special woman with us honey.


  3. Your tante Maria is amazing. I hope that, defying odds, she gets well, and if not that even that last bit of her life is, too, glamorous.

  4. What a lovely story about an amazing woman. Thanks so much for sharing her with us. Thoughts of love to you, and to her.

  5. maybe it's the hormones, but i DID cry.

    thank you for sharing all those fantastic photos and her story. i'm afraid to do somersaults at my age!

  6. alex, this is so touching, you have me all watery here first thing in the morning. the images + stories are just lovely, such a treasure. thank you for sharing with us all.

    i'm so glad you were able to go home for a bit.
    sending you lots of love,

  7. Thank you everyone....it made me sad but also very proud to write about her. She is a special lady for sure.

    Also, thank you for all your sweet comments. It really means so much to me. xoxo

  8. Alex, what a lovely tribute, with amazing photos to go along with it. Tante Maria sounds like an incredible woman, with such a joie de vivre. I think it must run in the family. Thanks so much for sharing her -- and her stories -- with us.

    Best wishes and hugs to you and your family.

  9. O girlie, I loved this! I'm so sorry about this. It's hard. She really is amazing.

  10. So sweet. How lucky you are to have such a beautiful woman in your life!

  11. thank you for sharing this with us it's really touching, she seems like a fabulous lady.

  12. I have a Tante Maria too! This was a gorgeous entry Alex, I am sure your Tante is very proud of you.

  13. What an amazing, sassy lady! I hope she gets to see this post, as your love and admiration shines through - you're making complete strangers cry (yes, I'm talking about me). Please know that your readers are thinking of you & sending you & Tante Maria good thoughts.

  14. Thank you for sharing such a lovely story. She is a great inspiration. Loving the outfits of the day!