by Jeannie Paslawsky

    My Aunt Helen celebrated her 97th Birthday on December 8, 2010.  Amazing!
    More amazing is her life and attitude.  Her parents moved to Tamaqua to a house on Railroad Street in 1918.  The fourth of ten children, she spent her early years picking coal and huckleberries to help the family get through the Great Depression.

    She has so many warm and good memories of growing up in tough times.
    She shared one bed with two sisters.  She saw many things including the Hindenberg blimp, just before it met its demise in New Jersey.  Being on that street, she also witnessed hundreds of "Troop Trains" taking the boys off the WWII, often handing homemade treats to them through the open windows.

    During her young adult life, she and Uncle Pete traveled, sometimes with Aunt Josephine and Uncle Joey, visiting shrines and baseball parks around the country.
    Aunt Helen lost Uncle Pete to Cancer in September, 1965.  I remember how brokenhearted everyone was about it.  Uncle Pete was a great guy with a most generous heart and terrific funny bone.  After Uncle Petsey died, she moved from their apartment back home to Gram Baddick's and her childhood home.

    Many people in town know her as one of the servers in her clean crisp white uniform and apron at the St. Jerome's First Holy Communion breakfast.  Some of the ladies made and served the class breakfast while parents waited in the back of the gym which was decorated by none other than... Aunt Helen!

    Aunt Helen decorated everything and anything using just about everything and anything!  I remember one centerpiece that was a styrofoam base sporting a Christmas yard scene.  Strung atop was a miniature Santa Claus and sleigh.  It was such a magical scene!
    Aunt Helen always had a ton of construction paper to use and make things.  She would often sit and color with me either in a book or on a page where you would draw a picture adding sparkles if you wanted!  Nobody else ever had sparkles at their house!

    Aunt Helen is also the only aunt who would make peanut butter and marshmallow on crackers!  She also had Oreos.  I asked my mom why she never made these and she explained, "I bake cookies.  Why would ever you want to eat those store bought cookies?"

    Over the years our photos show her sitting on the floor with one or many of us kids, playing a game or quietly telling us a story, or coloring.  Truly, it was more her presence that we enjoyed.  Not so much what she did, but just being with her.  That is the greatest lesson -- it is not about the stuff, it's about the love, attention and time that she gave us.

    When she turned 80, I asked her for some sage life advice.  She told me, "Jeannie Marie, expect nothing!  Take the word 'expect' out of your vocabulary.  Then, everything nice in life will be a wonderful surprise and your will never be disappointed!"

    At 97, she still lives by her advice.  May she live as she hopes for 100 years as we say in Polish -- "STO LAT!"

                     -- Jeannie Paslawsky    <paslawskyj at aol.com>

Jeannie was born and raised in the anthracite region in Tamaqua, PA, and now resides in Willow Grove.  She has worked in telecommunications and was always an avid writer.  She enjoys the outdoors, family times, reading, and watching non-professional sports, except for the Phillies!

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