When Allie was little, my Aunt Mary mailed her a letter. Allie was so young at the time that she was not quite sure which extended family member Aunt Mary even was, but she loved the letter with its story about a heron rescued during a storm. When she finally met Aunt Mary again in person, Allie was surprised that my aunt was an older woman. She had been picturing her as a girl in her teens or early twenties. I asked Allie why she had expected her grandmother's sister to be so young, and she replied, "Because she has a young voice, so full of interest and joy."
The moment she said it, I knew exactly what she meant. Aunt Mary was full of interest and joy when I was seven years old and she handed me two well-loved volumes of The Bobbsey Twins from her childhood collection, because she knew I would love them. She was every bit as full of interest and joy a quarter of a century later when she passed along Tom Sawyer to Allie for the same reason. The simple, hopeful brightness of girlhood never faded in Aunt Mary, and she would find it out in you if she met you.
I spoke to Aunt Mary--now in her nineties--on the phone just a month or two ago. Her voice has the ring of my mother's in it, and my grandmother's, and all my mother's sisters. Somehow, it is both soothing and uplifting--it makes you feel nostalgic, yet glad to be here right now.
When I am feeling burdened by the distractions and disappointments that set a person brooding (brooding kills the young voice), I will try to be like Aunt Mary--a woman who cares so much for others that she forgot to get old.