Of having aunts....
I have six aunts. Three on each side of my family. I have really fantastic aunts. Aunts that make me sad for all the people who are not that close to their extended family. Sad for what they might be missing out on.
My Aunt Priscilla makes the world's best cookies (monster cookies) and once a very long time ago sent me a funny card about a little boy who went to the freezer one night and ate a big scoop of what he thought to be ice cream, only to discover it was lard. I still have that card. She also made me a really awesome blanket because she is an amazing knitter. But more than all that, what my Aunt Priscilla gave me was books and books and books and books. My first copy of Jane Eyre? Aunt Priscilla. My first copy of Jane Eyre!!!! That's deep, right?
My Aunt Kathy is my mom's oldest sister and something about her just makes me feel safe. I see in her the consummate big sister. Equal parts bossy and caring. Practical and helpful. I may or may not spend 11 out of the 12 months of the year waiting for her annual box of cookies. And there is nothing funnier than being in the car with her and my Aunt Becky when one of them is driving. Seriously. I die!
My Aunt Linda is all heart. Feminine and delicate and sweet. Great for girl talk and book recommendations. I love the way she laughs wholeheartedly at her husband's jokes and stories, even though I think to myself...surely she has heard this one before? Something about the way my Aunt Linda views me is precious to me. I don't know how to put that in words exactly. Something about seeing me the way I would like to see myself.
My Aunt Becky lives closer to me than any other family and because of this I have seen more of her than any other family member since moving to Tucson. I treasure this. I love her sense of adventure and sense of humor. I love that we can talk about a lot of things that have happened in our lives and in our family. Like all of my mom's sisters, there is no mistaking that she is most definitely my mom's sister and so being with her feels a lot like home. She is also a nurse which makes her a very handy sort of person to have on hand and I have been known to text her a list of symptoms in order to get her medical opinion on what should be done. Also, best pancakes ever. Fact.
My Aunt Jane once made me laugh so hard I could barely breathe. It was at our annual family reunion and she did a skit of a cooking demonstration involving sherry. She nailed it. Perfect comedic timing. She is so...distinct. When I think of my Aunt Jane, I think: force to be reckoned with, red couches, Georgia O'Keefe paintings, jet black hair, ingredients I didn't like as a child hidden in foods I did like, and someone I can drink wine with nowadays.
My Aunt Maggie is my youngest aunt. I think of her as being the most likely to tell me (or any of my sisters or cousins) when we are being a brat. I think of her distinctive voice and contagious laugh. My sisters and I see her as laid back and relaxed. She is also mother to my cousin, Kristina. Kristina is the type of person that if there were a world's best and most likable human competition, I would totally enter her and she would probably win. There has to be credit to her mom for that, right?
On being an aunt....
As I review what my aunts have meant to me, I wonder, "What does it take to be a good aunt?" Food is clearly a pretty determining factor. And books.
Mostly, I think being a good aunt is about providing that adult support and structure without being THE PARENT. You are not the one who a child deals with day in and day out. That day to day leads to a loss of perspective on both sides. As an aunt, you can be the one who tells the child, "Yeah, your mom is being super ridiculous right now, but she loves you." You can also say, "Look kid, you are being an absolute brat right now and your mom works really hard. You are an ingrate. Knock it off!" It doesn't sound the same as it sounds when it is coming from a parent.
BONUS: As an aunt, you don't bear a lot of responsibility for how the kid turns out and so if
I got my first taste of being an aunt when I was 14. At 14, being an aunt lacks a certain amount of sentimentality. Lots of fun, though. When I became an aunt again, it was through marriage. My two nephews and my niece would spend almost every weekend with me. With each passing year my capacity for sentimentality about my nieces and nephews grows.
Through my sister, I have a 17-year old niece, an almost 2-year old nephew, and a 8-day old niece. I marvel at my 17-year old niece. At her maturity and intelligence and sense of humor, and occasionally, her teenage attitude problem. I was just discussing with my best friend the bizarre sensation of the first time the little person that used to idolize you, instead mocks you.
"Did you just MOCK me???? You worship me! I am the cool aunt!"
My 2-year old nephew, on the other hand, I still might have a chance with to be the cool aunt. Except that I am older now. And coolness is much harder for me to achieve because I want to spend all of my time saying things like, "No! Don't do that! That's not safe! Do not touch! Stop! Wait!Aaack! Eeek! Could I be any uncooler I am so uptight and overprotective and oh hey no that's not for children!" Although I do still have a wicked streak and the idea of bringing creepy bugs into the house to show his mother appeals to me. So if he is as twisted as his big sister, I might come out okay in this whole thing.
My new niece....who knows, right? It's a chance to start fresh with this whole aunt thing.
On when things fall apart....
Divorce is raw brutality even in its least complicated instances. It's why when I see those signs that say "Easy Divorce! $200!" around town I want to get out of my car and beat the signs with a stick, pour gasoline over them, light a match, and burn those signs to ashes in a righteous, sacrificial blaze. No such thing as easy. And it is this...are you an aunt? are you not an aunt? are you stepping on toes? are you hurting the feelings of children? I mean, genetically, there is nothing, but....emotionally there is a whole lot of something.
In my case, I talked the whole thing out with everybody and got permission to stay an aunt. But...it's not exactly that easy. It is so ridiculously complicated. Even when everybody is on decent terms. Because the two nephews and niece that I used to have with me every weekend now have two more brothers and another sister and I do not know them at all really. They have no connection with me whatsoever or I with them. And the older ones are getting.....well, older. I am not as interesting as a video game or a sport and I am 2,000 miles away. And at the end of the day, I am not family and my ex is. Things get weird. For everyone. Modern life is a killer, right?
I will be brief. If only because I have been so long-winded thus far. (If you are reading this - thanks for sticking with this sentimental drivel!) I highly recommend the aunt gig. If you have siblings, I would definitely nag them about this. It might take them 15 years to get around to it, but it's worth the wait.