One of the only things I could think to do after I heard the awful news earlier this week was to go back and look through some of the countless emails Laurie and I had exchanged over the last few years. One of my favorites was a message that Laurie herself had received and then forwarded to the family back in 2013:
Dear Ms. Fessler,
Thank you for contacting us about Mott’s Chunky Applesauce. We’re always excited to hear from our customers. Currently, Mott’s Chunky Applesauce is no longer in production. If you liked Mott’s Chunky Applesauce you may love Mott’s Cinnamon Applesauce.”
Laurie had added her own response to the email: This is just not right. How dare they compare cinnamon to chunky!
It was the latest in a long history of Fessler customer service complaints, a trait that both my mom and my aunt certainly inherited from their father.
Anna and I were so lucky to have Aunt Laurie.
When I turned 13, Laurie gave me something I’ll treasure forever. It was a hand-made, numbered scrapbook that told that story of my life, starting at birth, and was filled with jokes, family pictures and stories. Shortly after she handed me the scrapbook, she sighed when she realized she’d have to make one for each of the other three cousins. But she outdid herself every time. For Anna’s, she took a whole magazine and turned into “Anna Magazine.” Those scrapbooks were the closest us four cousins ever came to getting bar mitzvah’ed.
When both Anna and I went to college, Laurie sent us each a big loaf of her famous banana bread (always just a little undercooked, just how we liked it.)
For most of college, I had a radio show at my local college station. Laurie listened to my show, without fail, every single week, much to the eventual annoyance, I’m sure, of the rest of her family. She treated my show like I was the most famous D.J. in the world, and made me feel that way too.
When it came to traditions, there was no one like Aunt Laurie. She cared about the details, always making sure there was Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider for the kids (and for her) at every family meal, and always making sure that on Christmas, the cream cheese and the cinnamon rolls were low-fat.
If I had to sum up what it was like to have Laurie as your Aunt, it would be the way she answered just about anything I ever asked of her. It didn’t matter what: can I come over a little later? Can we open the stockings before we eat breakfast? Can you please pass the chunky applesauce? Her answer was the same every single time: Anything for my nephew.