Boursin on sale; memories of Aunt Polly included

Sometimes something small, something altogether ridiculous, evokes a memory that is neither of the above.
So it was with me when I looked into the cheese section of my favorite supermarket and saw a small box of French Boursin on sale for $2.98 — about half of its regular price. About the same price that was regular for it almost 50 years ago, when I first visited my long-gone Aunt Polly in North Carolina.
Boursin was her favorite cheese. It was expensive even then, but she always had some on hand when she had company. I had never bought it at all, but when I tasted it there for the first time, I was hooked. However, not enough to indulge myself by spending that kind of money on a small block of cheese when I got back home, where I was newly on my own and totally responsible for the upkeep of two children on my own salary.
Still, the desire lingered for a while. After some time, it slowly faded away, but I always remembered that Aunt Polly gave the best to her company, and I tried to emulate her in that (minus the costly Boursin). And I also learned from her about “the “gettin’ place,” a spot where she squirreled away potential gifts. There was always something waiting for anticipated birthdays and anniversaries, new babies, holidays, other special occasions and unexpected visitors.
When Aunt Polly was diagnosed with lung cancer, her doctor, her family, she herself and everyone who knew her knew it was her final illness. One day, when she was still able to be out and about on her own, a neighbor spotted Aunt Polly shopping in a jewelry store. Far from being the world’s most subtle person, that woman asked, “Why are you buying jewelry now?” And Aunt Polly, her usual cool self, answered, “It’s not for me. I’m buying it to give away!”
In her honor and memory, I set up my own “gettin’ place,” in the back of a walk-in closet. But over the years, the closet seems to have gotten much smaller as the accumulation has grown much bigger. I now keep bags — one for each branch of the family, one for holiday items, one for children (like Aunt Polly, I keep things on hand in case a child comes by — maybe with a visiting adult, or if I’ll be visiting a home with kids). And there are others: one filled with Judaica suited for weddings and bar and bat mitzvahs, one just for items I’ve liked enough to bring home with the idea that someday I’d find the right time to give it to the right person, whomever that might be. (Truthfully, that last bag is the one that always overflows.) I also keep a pile of books — for both adults and children — in a nearby corner.
Now, here’s the cheese connection: That lonely little box of Boursin in the supermarket took me back to my first taste on my first visit, and then to the one made for Aunt Polly’s funeral. She was only 60, yet it was the effort of will she’d made that kept her that long, until she was able to empty out her “gettin’ place.” (Lately, I’ve managed to curb my advance gift buying, fearing that many, if not most, of these items will outlive my identifying the right recipients for them.)
So I put the Boursin into my cart, finished shopping for the things on my list (and also the few others that called me to take them home as well), and gladly paid the reduced price, which I’m sure was the full price when Aunt Polly also gifted her visitors with local cigarettes that cost $2 a carton! And as soon as I arrived, I opened that little box, picked up a spoon, and ate every bit of it!

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