The following was written by Mary Gartland to her Aunt, Virginia Gartland, on the the occasion of Virginia's receipt her lifetime achievement award from the Cenacle. It's posted here at Virginia's request.
October 2, 2002
Lake Ronkonkoma, New York
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world of there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
The New York Sun, 1897
How perfectly this letter to an 8-year-old believer captures the essence of our Aunt Virginia. And I think that as a child I imagined that it might have been written just for her. You see, when we were children it was wholly apparent that Aunt Virginia was one of us. The youngest of the Gartland four, you seemed to stay forever a kid...in all the right ways. Aunt Virginia, you have always embodied a girlish optimism, a love of humor, and a true compassion for the triumphs and vulnerabilities of childhood. And isn't that what our adult hearts long for?
My early memories were of our faraway aunts who lovingly devoured us into their oodles of black skirt. Mom often tells about how Dad returned their affection at the airport, despite his sisters' emphatic protest. Somehow Virginia's skirt arose when it was time to spin on the bicycle or a raucous game of ball. And how quickly Aunt Virginia shed her uniform upon coming home to the green earth of Rileyville. Auntie and Dad used to smile as they recalled her early years: boudning around the yard, falling into the lillies, and yelling her loudest upon summer's return. I remember your cries of delight and defeat at the kitchen table playing cards, dice, and word games. "Nuts to the nutty! Too bad, so sad!" you'd exclaim. When we needed an accomplice, an audience, or a hearty push on the swing you were always game. And then there was the berrying. Dressed like a scarecrow with a pail around your neck, you insisted in scouring for the tiny strawberries at our feet, braving the vines of thorny blackberries, and of course collecting a pail full of the coveted Rileyville huckleberries.
Aunt Virginia, you welcomend us and hundreds of other travelers into your heart, where we have basked in the warmth of your compassion and the radiance of your joyful spirit. Today we celebrate you - and in the tradition of three Edwards who have gone before us - lift you up and twirl you on high.