• Jacqueline McKenna Alvarez

Sparkling Facets of a Flawless Romance

On February 14th, 1925, my Uncle John proposed to my Aunt Mim with a diamond of exceptional purity, set in a platinum band. The sparkling ring served as a symbol of their love throughout their five year engagement, saving their pennies to buy a house, and their 60 years of wedded bliss.

As a young child, I looked forward to sleepovers at their three story Tudor home in Whitestone, Queens. Every room provided a new and different adventure, with memories that sustain me to this day.

Whenever my dad banged out tunes on the upright piano in the enclosed front porch, I danced on the radiator cover beside him. The first in their neighborhood to get a television, my aunt and uncle’s living room was often packed with relatives eager to watch the 16-inch screen. The meals served at the dining room table had been lovingly prepared in the black and white tiled kitchen, where I could be found coloring in the pink Naugahyde banquette breakfast nook.

Of the second floor’s four bedrooms, three were left available to me. Having read Goldilocks one too many times, I tried out all the beds until I found the one that was just right. On extremely hot summer nights, I slept with my aunt and uncle in the master bedroom, the only room with a window air conditioner. The hum lulled me gently to sleep.

On Saturday mornings while my Uncle took their two adorable cocker spaniels to the park, Aunt Mim baked delicious cookies, cakes and pies. She gave me my own apron and heavy-duty mixing bowl filled with Pillsbury flour in which I used a wooden spoon to form smooth white peaks and valleys.

Knowing I loved the smell of vanilla extract, she put a drop of it on my pajama collar. All morning long I sniffed the aroma, convinced I was wearing the most exotic perfume.

After getting dressed, I would sit on the tapestry-cushioned bench at Aunt Mim’s dressing table. Opening the decorative container filled with loose powder and puff, I dabbed my face until it made me sneeze. I admired the tubes of lipstick filled with rich shades of pink and raspberry, alongside the bottle of her favorite ‘Windsor Rose’ nail polish.

I tried on all of her jewelry, except for the sparkling diamond ring. That lay waiting for my aunt to place on her finger, each new day.

A bit of a night owl, my aunt set the breakfast table before she went to bed, and always left my uncle a note. One evening I watched in amazement as she wrote “I Love You” in script on an uncooked egg, before placing it in an egg cup. As a child, I admired her ability to write without breaking the egg. As an adult, I realized the depth of emotion in that gesture far outweighed the technique it required. My Uncle John, ever the gentleman and incurable romantic, never passed by my aunt without giving her a loving touch. The greeting cards they exchanged had had only one noticeable difference. His were inscribed “To My Darling Wife” and hers “To My Darling Husband.”

They never had children, but their home was a welcome haven for relatives attending college or on furlough from the service. My father lived with them before joining the Army and for this I remain grateful. My mother’s family owned the house adjacent to my aunt and uncle’s, whereby my father personified the song lyrics, “How can I ignore the girl next door?” He couldn’t. They married...and the rest is history.

In an effort to help my dad after my mother passed when I turned thirteen, Aunt Mim and Uncle John sold their Whitestone home and built a new one in Northport, LI so I could stay near my friends.

Through the years, my uncle frequently asked my aunt to have her diamond reset. Her standard reply: “One day, darling, but it seems such an unnecessary expense.”

On October 16th,1989 we celebrated their 60th anniversary. My aunt passed on February 1st, 1990. Two weeks later, February 14th, Valentine’s Day 1990, my uncle paid me a visit. Handing me a long stemmed yellow rose and a small gift box, he said “I’m sure your Aunt would approve.”

The box contained her diamond ring. My uncle’s only request was that I have it reset, which I did.

At the age of 87, Uncle John had chosen the 65th anniversary of the day he proposed to my aunt to bequeath this gift to me. An incredibly romantic tribute to the memory of the only woman he had ever loved.

Every female remembers the thrill of her first diamond ring and I am no exception. How fortunate was I to receive a second—not as a proposal for better or worse—but as validation of two sweethearts who truly lived happily ever after.



Uncle John and Aunt Mim on a cruise to Bermuda, circa 1954

Aunt Mim's recipes from her own hand

Jacqueline McKenna Alvarez relinquished her dream of being a Radio City Rockette when she reached her peak height of 5’1”. Substituting the stage for the theater of R.H. Macy’s, she enjoyed a 32 year career as an executive in merchandising and the field of Human Resources. She won several leadership awards as United Way campaign coordinator. As a member of Jan Bassin’s Writers Workshop, her fortuitous meeting with Susan Wexler led to her current role as co-editor of Susan’s blog What's New in the Romance Department?


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