Willemma and Delonas were my mother’s two youngest sisters. I am not certain where the “Will” of Willemma came from; but, my grandmother’s name was Emma. Delonas is easier. She was born in 1934. My grandfather was a Roosevelt Democrat.
Their family called them “The Tykes;” but, my grandfather’s cousin referred to them as “The Little Punks.” Delonas got singled out as “The Punk” which became “Punkie.” The name stuck. Willemma got shortened to Willie. They were Willie and Punkie ever after.
Willie and Punkie were, respectively, 11 and 10 years older than I. From the beginning, they were more big sisters than aunts. I thought they were beautiful and I loved them more than I can say.
My sister and I spent summers with them while they were still in high school. They devoted their full attention to us filling our days with lifelong memories.
Every morning after breakfast, they would take us out on the lawn. They swung, chased, summersault-ed, and cartwheel-ed with us. They did handstands and jumped rope. We played ring around the rosy until we were dizzy.
And their hands. I can never forget the almond-cherry smell of their hands. Where did that divine smell come from? It didn’t occur to me to ask. I was determined, though, to find out.
I happened to observe that they ate Grape-Nuts every morning for breakfast. It was after breakfast while playing on the lawn that I noticed the smell of their hands. “Aha! It’s the Grape-Nuts,” my six year old brain concluded.
“Cornflakes or Cheerios, Denny?” Willie asked the next morning.
“Grape-Nuts,” I said.
“You won’t like them.”
“Yes, I will.”
Willie was right. I didn’t like them. But eating them was a small price to pay for cracking the secret of the scent.
Grape-Nuts were a disappointment. After breakfast, Willie and Punkie’s hands were almond-cherry scented. Mine were not.
I was an adult before I learned it was the Jergens lotion they rubbed on their hands after washing the breakfast dishes. Punkie used Jergens her whole life. Willie outgrew Jergens in favor of other, more sophisticated lotions. I will never outgrow memories of my beautiful and almond-cherry scented big-sister-aunts.