Of course, she wasn't really my aunt and, out of fear, I never called her that to her face. I only referred to her as "My Aunt Fannie" because the name always made my father chuckle and gave my mother cause to look sternly at both of us—at me for being disrespectful of my elder and at my father for encouraging my bad behavior. I enjoyed both reaction so I looked for every opportunity to work the name into as many conversations as possible.
As a young woman, my mother had worked in the kitchen of a large Victorian farmhouse owned by Fannie Cratty and her twin brother, Farnsworth. They represented the end of the Cratty line. Neither had married nor had any living heirs and my father once told me (in a whisper) that it was because they were both too stingy to share their family wealth or pass it on.
During those year my mother helped Aunt Fanny make the best blueberry cobbler jam ever tasted by anyone in Glenfield. She was noted for her jam and for never sharing the recipe with another living soul. (This was the real source of contention among the Baptist women.)
Even though my mother knew the recipe by heart, as long as Aunt Fannie was alive (and she lived to be ninety-six!), she never made the jam without Ms. Cratty in our kitchen to direct the process and preserve the secret.
Each August, when blueberry season would roll around, my mother would prepare me for Aunt Fannie's visit. It was imperative that I be on my best behavior. After all, the woman was old, wealthy, stern, and a pillar of the church (I guess that would make her my "sainted" Aunt Fannie). Reverend Nash had once preached on the consequences of looking on sinful things and had told about Lot's wife being turned to a pillar of salt because she looked back on wicked Sodom and Gomorrah.
I didn't know what Aunt Fannie had looked at, but it must have been pretty bad. Whatever it was had left her hair a decided shade of blue and turned her into a pillar of the church. Whenever she was at the house, I didn't need to be reminded to guard my thoughts and watch my tongue.
One year, after I had been particularly helpful with the jam proces Aunt Fannie gave me a quarter and then made me promise that I would never spend it. "Hold onto this quarter," she said, "and someday you will be rich. I still have my very first quarter, given to me by my grandfather." It had obviously worked for her. So, I tucked the 1938-quarter in a small box, put it in my dresser drawer, and waited to become rich.
I now have the blueberry cobbler jam recipe and the quarter from Aunt Fannie. In people's eye Aunt Fannie's success was attributed to that secret recipe. But to me, it was just a common recipe. Neither have significantly contributed to my net worth, but I keep them as reminders to hold onto the valuable things in life.
Money can make you feel rich for a while, but it is the relationships and the memories of time spent with friends and family that truly leave you wealthy. And that is a fortune that anyone can build.