My aunt, Elizabeth Messite Bachrach, moved to Great Neck in 1994 and is the reason that I am here today. She and her brother, my dad, Andrew, grew up sharing a room in Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn.
After my aunt moved into an apartment on Schenck Avenue, my grandparents got a place two blocks away and then my parents started their new life in the suburbs on the same block.
This environment, where all of my family was within a three-block radius, made for a very loving and happy childhood.
Liz took my brother out and had sleepovers with him when I was born to make him feel special, because he wasn’t really loving the idea of having to share the spotlight with another kid. She helped him get through his “hunger strike” of solely eating Goldfish for three days in protest of my arrival.
Every year, my family and Liz’s growing family of a girl, Hannah, and her younger brother, Jake, would go trick-or-treating together and make snow angels in Wyngate Park when we had storms in the winter. I remember my cousin Jake’s first birthday party at Steppingstone Park and watching Barbie movies in my aunt’s bed.
Although my family is relatively small, the foundation in Great Neck that Liz established is why I never missed not having more cousins.
I am so glad I was able to experience the pride of watching out for my cousin Hannah on her first day of kindergarten and I remember feeling so happy that I had the chance to show her what Saddle Rock was all about. I got to sit next to her on the school bus and walk her to her class and I felt like she was the younger sister that I never had.
My happy bubble came crashing down at the end of Hannah’s first year at school, when a substitute teacher accidentally revealed to me her family’s plans to move to California. For a while, my family was absolutely devastated and I still feel a pit in my stomach when I think I see my uncle picking up a pizza at Gino’s.
However, when we saw how happy the Bachrachs were in Orange County and the wonderful community they came to build through my aunt’s school, we were so happy for them, even if selfishly we wished it would still be a five-minute walk to visit them.
In the short time Liz was in California, she made so many great friends who have really been there for my uncle and my cousins during this very difficult time.
They recently had a celebration of my aunt’s life and so many of her students stood up and attested to what a great person and teacher she really was.
Liz lived in Great Neck for nearly 20 years and touched so many lives in New York, as well.
She was taken from us way too soon, after a three-and-a-half year battle with breast cancer, and I wish we had more time.
I wish we had more time together and that we had lived near each other these past few years, so she could have seen how similar everyone says we are. We are both pretty lazy and had a weird habit of never laughing when watching television when we were young.
Stories like my grandpa having to carry Liz from her bed to the bathroom that was probably 50 feet away at 15 years old could have easily been of me and my dad.
I wish we would have talked about our shared love of books and writing, because she has written so many stories of her own life that deserve to be published.
However, her talent, wit and amazing sense of humor lives on in her two children, and everyone who knew her will always have a piece of her in their hearts. I will continue to remember my favorite and only aunt every time I see anything related to bacon or donuts.