The night before my actual birthday, Judy asked my niece, Chelsey, to use 3 words to describe me. To my complete and utter ... I have to digress - I love the word "utter" and it always makes me think of the joke "What do you call a cow walking in tall grass?" "Udderly" tickled! Get it? "Udderly Tickled"? I love it. But I'm back - to my complete and utter surprise she replied "you'll hear tomorrow". At first I wondered why Chelsey needed to wait until tomorrow to tell her and then I realized she must be going to say something at my birthday dinner. Maybe a toast or something. My excitement, and curiosity grew throughout the evening and the next day. But nothing I imagined even came close to the incredibly thoughtful, beautiful and well written, speech, Chelsey recited at that night. She was also kind enough, after much prodding, to send it to me so I could prove to everyone I brag about it to, it was real. Let the bragging continue:
"Today we are here to celebrate someone very special to our hearts, a lamb to lead all other lambs, a lamb that is not afraid to stray and show her black sheep side, a lamb that is sure to have the loudest “baaaaa” of them all. To many of you she is Sylvia, to fewer she is referred to as “sista”, and I’m sure on a few occasion “little shit” by Oma, but to me she is Tante Sylvi. Many of you know Tante Sylvi and I are very close, and you know how important the tante title can be, but as her and I say, “no one will ever know how truly tight we are”.
Over the last twenty years you have taught me many things, from your famous wine bottle trick we all love so much, to your passion for baking that brings us those delicious cakes, and as much as you have tried to teach me to be an elegant swimmer, let’s face it Tante, that’s never gonna happen. Although I have always recognized how much you and I mean to each other, I never fully understood what that relationship meant until four years ago when I too became a tante. I had no idea that all the times you “promised you could make me cry” as a little girl, were in fact preparing me to be a strong young woman.
Many would say I had some big shoes to fill becoming a tante of my own, but in this case I had a big rainbow sweater to fill! You all know what sweater I am referring to. It’s a mystery why I loved this sweater so much, maybe it’s because I always knew without a doubt it looked great with anything you wore, or because your smell would be engraved in it forever or possibly because the many colors it had represents all the wonderful things about you. You are always striving for adventure; you are strong and spirited, you can be sarcastically funny and severely loving, you are smart and competitive, and like the sweater, bound together by the various memories and experiences you share with us each day.
I have an infinite passion for traveling and I believe you, Tante, are strongly responsible. Not only have we flown across the world together, but more importantly you have taught me to love long stretches of road taking me from one horizon to the next. It is as if our lives together have been one long road trip made up of many destinations. This road we have been traveling on has taught us many things. It has taught us there is no need to back track in life and that moving ahead, while at times scary, will take us to new places and new adventures. The road has laughed with us on the way to Port Aransas, and cried with us through the state of Washington. Let’s admit Tante, that is definitely an adventure that does not need to be backtracked.
Since beginning this long road trip I believe the soundtrack that continues to play is Melissa Etheridge, although sometimes masked by you screaming her lyrics as loud as you can. It has been this way ever since the time you flew in for my birthday just so you could take me on that ride in a convertible because that’s the kind of tante you are and always will be. After braving those long tear-filled months in Washington I truly believe her words are fitting, “I’m the only one who’ll walk across the fire for you”. I really felt like we were walking across the fire for each other. I honestly don’t know what I would have done without you there and all though it was a year spent mostly dripping, I will always have an enduring feeling when I think about how special it was to spend that time with my tante, oh and let’s not forget the awesome blow up mattress with a head board that I slept on every weekend just to be near you.
You are constantly striving to make me a better person whether I know it or not. I am positive many of you have been challenged to one of Tante Sylvi’s bets, but has she ever bet one of you 100 dollars you couldn’t brush your teeth twice a day for a whole year, just because she knew it would make your smile better? You have been my life raft, literally in the water, and in life, at times when I needed it and at times when I didn’t know I did. I am so grateful for all the memories and experiences we have shared together. I want to take this moment to say how thankful I am for all you have taught me, because if I don’t say it enough, you truly have been one of the most essential role models in my life and I only hope that one day Josslyn will be saying the same about her tante. A quote that I learned from you, that you learned from your father, “I don’t eat because I’m hungry; I eat to keep from getting hungry.” I hope that you continue to strive for adventure and experience life to its full potential as you have, not because you are bored or feel a lacking, but because you never wish to. Tante Sylvi I wish you the happiest birthday, I love you more than you will ever know."
Thanks again Chelsey, I love you so much and can not begin to express how much this means to me and btw, there were just as many tears during the 87th reading as there were when I hear.
Love Tante Sylvi
P.S. I wish I could've found a picture of the rainbow sweater but maybe another time :-)