Celebrating the good aunt


Today marks the end of the good aunt series here on my blog, though you’ll probably still find me posting about the topic from time to time. But first …

A prayer for those in Sandy’s path
Before I launch into today’s post, though, let me say a quick prayer for those in the path of Sandy: Father God, we know you are more powerful than the most powerful hurricane, and we ask you to protect those in Sandy’s path. For those who are afraid, please give them a sense of calm. For those who are weak, please give them strength. For those who are facing loss, please give them friends and family to comfort them. For those who are thrill-seeking idiots, please send them a guardian angel and keep the brave folks who try to save them from harm. Thank you for keeping us in Your loving hands during life’s storms. Amen.

Good aunts to celebrate
There are several “good aunts” I want to thank and celebrate to close out the series, including a few of my own good aunts. I’ve spoken early in the series about my great aunts, who really were the grandmothers I needed growing up.

In this picture, one of my closest aunts (my mom’s sister) celebrates her wedding day with her new husband, while my great aunt Clare, right, makes her laugh.

My aunt celebrates her wedding day with her own good aunt, there on the right, making her laugh.

My aunt Mary Lou was vibrant and smart and loving, and even though she was busy with a full-time teaching job and three children of her own, she always found time to make me feel special. She taught me to love museums and literature and movies and time with family. Her overseas trips taught me about the exciting possibilities of traveling to other countries and experiencing different cultures, and she often brought a small treasure home for me. She was one of the earliest encouragers of my writing, and I wish she were still alive to read my blog, because I know her insights and questions would continue to make me a better writer.

I’m grateful for the years I got to know her, and I’m so glad she got to meet my husband (whom she liked very much, and not just because he had the good sense to love her niece.) She wasn’t perfect, but when I think of her, the memories of her that flood back most strongly are her smile and her laugh. She was my good aunt. 

There was also my aunt Jean, my dad’s sister, whom I rarely saw as a child, but I was able to visit her shortly before she died, and the stories she told of my dad’s and her childhood gave me added richness to their growing-up story. She and her husband loved to fix up old houses, and the one I remember best was built into the side of a mountain in North Carolina, with an interior wall that was nothing more than the rock on which the house had been built. I wish I could have known her better.

There’s also Suranai, my dad’s sister-in-law, who returned to her native Thailand shortly after my uncle died. But she was there for me from the first night my parents brought me home. She and my uncle babysat my brother while my parents made the drive to the adoption agency to get me. So she was the first of my aunts I got to meet. She has always been very quiet around us, not trusting her command of English, but she has a great sense of humor and gave me beautiful Thai gifts that still grace my home. Before leaving for Thailand, she gave me a set of wedding dishes, beautiful not only for their delicate design but for the hope they gave me that I would one day marry. There’s also no one on this planet who makes better Thai iced tea than she does, and I’m not sure there’s anyone who can grow cacti as well.

I guess I would say to those of you out there who are younger and still have an opportunity to get to know your aunts, reach out to them. You never know what beauty, hope and love (not to mention funny stories about your parents) you might otherwise miss.

A debt of gratitude to my good aunt interviewees
In addition to wanting to celebrate some of my own aunts, I owe a debt of gratitude to the handful of wonderful women who agreed to let me interview them for this series. For all of you – you know who you are – thank you, thank you, thank you. This is a debt I cannot repay, but if you think of a way, let me know.

Some of you I interviewed have told me how uplifted you felt following your interview. Some of you expressed how my questions and your responses validated your life and the exciting paths you’re on, giving you a greater sense of purpose. Some of you have become even better aunts as a result of thinking through what being a good aunt means to you and reminiscing about your own good aunts. Some of you have forged stronger bonds with your friends who are moms, because you’ve been empowered to become more honest and open with them.

I know that, at least for some, the questions weren’t easy, and in some cases highlighted areas of pain that you didn’t even realize you were struggling with. I regret dredging up pain for you, unless in becoming aware of it, you have found ways to acknowledge and deal with the pain so that you could embrace your beautiful lives again.

Every one of you interviewees lives a life worth living and a life that draws others to you. You are juggling work, friendships, family, physical concerns and spiritual faith in a way that makes you a good aunt to those coming up behind you in the next generations.

Do not ever discount your power as a good aunt.

The end. And the next beginning.
For those of you who have read and encouraged me as I’ve undertaken this series, I say “Thank you” to you, as well.

As the series closes, I’ll be looking for other channels and future projects where this topic and theme belong. So I’d like to ask you this: if there’s a topic I covered that you’d like to hear more about, or a topic I totally passed by, I’d love to know what more you’d like to hear about the good aunt. Thanks for reading.

And if you have a good aunt who’s still alive, the best way you can thank me for the series is by telling your aunt, “Thank you.” Write her a letter. Call her. Add her birthday to your calendar. Let her know she’s an important and valued part of your life. She deserves to be celebrated as your good aunt.

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