One of our beloved aunts (Ken’s by birth, mine my marriage) is struggling for her life while dear aunts of two close friends also dwell in precarious states. So lately I’ve been thinking about the aunties in my life, and how much I love them.
Having spent a long stretch of my growing-up years just about aunt-less due to have only a few aunts to begin with, and then being separated from them by my parents’ divorce, I didn’t know what I was missing for a long time. But life has a way of making up for such gaps with a vengeance: I reunited with my lost aunts, especially Aunt Rhoda (even a song about her), who always made me laugh, understood the allure of strong dessert, and could belt out Broadway tunes like nobody’s business, and Aunt Jill, who scouted out big dog love long before I discovered how true it was.
When I married Ken — whose father is one of five brother and whose mother is one is five sisters — the new aunties poured in. I remember talking to a gaggle of them at my wedding reception about how strange it felt to wear a wedding ring. “I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it,” I complained. “Oh, of course, you will. We will did,” they told me, and then showed me the deep indentations in their ring fingers, which freaked out but gave me hope.
I’m aunt-ified with about ten aunts, all particularly quirky and wonderful. Between my aunts, there’s ample experience in everything from operatic singing, horseback riding, auctioneering, driving fast in New York City traffic, ballroom dancing, cat-loving, dog-loving, and an excessive amount of second-grade teaching (three of them!). Some have strong Brooklyn accents, and some sound like they live in Oklahoma (because they do). Some showed me the secret life of late 60s young adults, and some told me stories of just about starving on the farm during the Depression. All have stories that would curl straight hair or straighten out curls. Don’t mess with the aunts!
I get to experience the inner workings of being an aunt too, thanks to my wondrous, spirited, intriguing and best-in-world 8 nieces and 3 nephews, who range in age from 12 t0 20-something, spanning junior high through post-college. Having learned from my aunties, I make it my business to send my charges little facebook messages at times, signed, “Your little auntie,” and to dole out both unsolicited advice and praise. When my nieces who live relatively close would visit as girls, I stocked the house with pizza, chick flicks and chocolate if they coming. Then they would veg out just like my kids for hours, and just like my kids, when I yelled, “Kids, clean up the basement!” they could ignore me too. I didn’t really care though; it’s part of the job of the auntie to lead by examples of outrageousness. It’s also wonderful to have great talks with my nieces and nephews, watch their lives unfold, and even see a poem one wrote or hear a song another plays.
My own kids have been the aunt jackpot with 8 aunts (two of whom are our illegally-adopted sisters-in-law), who are spectacularly loving and present. Karen (Ken’s sister) took Daniel out before college for a long trek through an office supply store, outfitting him so well that now, after he’s graduated college, he’s still using the stash of pencils, paper, tape and aspirin she gave him. Jen (my sister), who was always bonded at the root with Natalie, stayed up to god-knows-when with my young-adult daughter, clubbing on the cruise ship last December. It’s simply the job of the aunt to outfit their nieces and nephews with experience and a life-time’s supply of rubber bands.
So as our elder aunties meander along the edges of their lives, let’s celebrate the aunties we love, who love our children, and who we aspire to be. Long may their lights shine in our lives and hearts.