Oh, where to start… perhaps with the basics..
Hilary Ross was my Great Aunt — my Mom’s father’s sister.. She died on December 13, 2012… she was 90. She was an Episcopal Nun and when her convent dissolved she went to grad school for English. She later became an English professor at Madison Area Technical College. By the time I knew her well, she was retired and living with her feline companions in Madison. She had an amazing group of local friends who found her company delightful and thought-provoking.. and she’ll be missed by all of us, whether or not we share DNA..
The basics just don’t do her justice. Hil was, to the end, thoughtful, witty, strong-willed, and sarcastic. She was interested in the world around her, read the New York Times daily and nothing important got past her.
I’m not sure where to begin telling my favorite Hil story — and I’m guessing that I’ll post more than one as time goes along. Maybe I’ll start with a week that Pam and I spent with her in Madison one summer…
We were pretty young, maybe 10 and 13, or even younger. Hil was energetic and unlike any adults we knew — On that trip she taught us how to play Gin Rummy at her curvy 1960s kitchen table — and she didn’t pull any punches because she was playing with kids… so, being shrewd, she usually won.
Maybe the most memorable bit about that trip was the ear-piercing. We’d asked our mom if we could get our ears pierced. Mom — being sensible — said no. Then, one magic day, Hil asked us what we wanted to do and (I’m guessing) Pam mentioned getting our ears pierced. Hil thought it was a grand idea and we were off to the mall…
A couple of hours later we had gold studs in our ears and thought we were pretty special… then, and only then, did Hil realize that mom may not be too thrilled with the status of our ears… Hil hadn’t thought to call mom to ask if it was ok… we just did it. That may have been my first experience with the “it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission” school of thought..