Guest post: The great good aunt

Today marks the beginning of a series of guest bloggers writing about the good aunt. In the post below, you’ll get to meet an amazing author and friend of mine, Jerel Law. He’s going to tell you about his sister-in-law, who isn’t just a good aunt. She’s a great good aunt.

Jerel is the author of Spirit Fighter, the first in the Jonah Stone: Son of Angels series. For all you good aunts, uncles, moms and dads out there, this is a great read for ages 10 to 14 (but I also think it’s a great read for anyone older, too). Fire Prophet, the second book in the series, is due out this December.

Jerel and his son Christopher at a recent book signing

Just a reminder that the “Thank your good aunt” contest is still going on, and if you win, you could choose to receive Spirit Fighter as your prize. So get those entries in. And now, here’s Jerel:

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I’m grateful that Hope asked me to contribute to the Good Aunt series. I’ve had some terrific aunts in my life, and my children have some now. I want to tell you about one in particular, though – my sister-in-law, Dana. I want to share with you what it is that makes her a very, very special aunt. And to understand that, you need to know something about our last couple of years. Continue reading

The good aunt and baby showers

A diaper cake at the last baby shower I hosted

When I was interviewing women for this series, I ended with this question: “How many baby showers have you attended?” Maybe this wasn’t a fair question, because I can only give a guesstimate of the number of baby showers I’ve attended (maybe 30 or 40?). I’ve hosted four and attended countless others, including work showers for male co-workers whose wives were having babies.

What I had intended as a light question at the end of the interview turned into some of the most heartfelt remarks during the interviews.

Let me begin with their initial responses from each, categorized by the women’s ages (by decade): Continue reading

The good aunt’s legacy

What is a good aunt’s legacy? What does a woman without children leave behind in the world?

One of the women I spoke with wants to make sure her American niece knew the Nancy the Spider (or Anansi) stories that she inherited from her African background. Another spoke of her struggle over not having somebody to pass material things down to, saying with a bit of relief, “That’s where my nieces come in.” Others spoke of the way they are teaching nieces and nephews to carry on other family traditions: baking together or learning to cook a family recipe, going on family vacations together, and passing on the stories of past generations.

For those of us without children who have family heirlooms and traditions we want to pass down, this issue of heirs can be something that weighs on our minds. What will be our legacy when we’re gone?

Elizabeth Gilbert writes:

In leaving no descendents, [sic] however, childless aunts do tend to
vanish from memory after a mere generation, quickly forgotten, their
lives as transitory as butterflies. But they are vital as they live, and they
can even be heroic. … Often able to accrue education and resources
precisely because they were childless, these women had enough spare
income and compassion to pay for livesaving operations, or to rescue
the family farm, or to take in a child whose mother had fallen gravely ill. (Committed, 192) Continue reading

Somebody’s something

I’m a newcomer to the BBC’s wildly popular Downton Abbey, and have worked my way through Season 1 and 2 on DVD. If you haven’t made it through season 2 yet, let this serve as your spoiler alert (but come back and read this post after you’ve caught up on the series).

Toward the end of Season 2, Lady Grantham receives a letter from her daughter Sybil with news that she’s expecting her first child. Lady Grantham is thrilled, but Lord Grantham is not, for the simple reason that he never approved of the marriage between his daughter Sybil and the household’s Irish chauffeur, Tom Branson. He threatens to disown Sybil because of her decision to marry someone outside of her class, but because he really does love her and is generally a decent chap, he softens his stance, and the marriage takes place.

Lord Grantham sounds resigned as he says that Sybil’s fate is sealed now that she’s pregnant, as if before her pregnancy, she could or would have undone her marriage to Tom. Lady Grantham’s response to him is that it wasn’t the pregnancy but the marriage itself that set Sybil’s life on its current course. (She further cements her place as one of my favorite characters by assuring Lord Grantham that she won’t be kept from her first grandchild simply because Sybil’s marriage doesn’t fit with conventions of the day.)

Lord Grantham isn’t alone in his thoughts that children are the cementing element of a marriage. The term “starter marriage” became popular in the late 1990s, and I remember some coworkers teasing a newlywed among us that she could have a starter marriage (as several of them had already had): a short marriage that ended in divorce and never produced children. How sad it is to me that there’s even a term for such a marriage and a prevailing attitude that the end of such a marriage can be taken lightly because it doesn’t matter as much as one that produced children. Continue reading

How do you say “good aunt”?

Pearls Before Swine is one of my favorite comic strips, and this past Saturday’s strip got me thinking about the different ways and reasons we say “aunt.” (Take a moment to read the strip and then come back).

Sociolinguistic differences
The way we say the word “aunt” depends in large part on where we grow up. Many of us (and I’m talking about the United States, primarily) pronounce it like the insect “ant.” There are others who say it like “ahnt” to rhyme with the way many of us say the word “daunt.” Others say it in a way that sounds almost like the word “ain’t.”

I found a cool map showing regional differences of how we say the word “aunt” that those of you who are word geeks (like me) might enjoy seeing.

Of the women I interviewed (all of whom have at least some connection with the southern United States), here’s the break down of how they say the word:

  • 18% say the word like “ahnt”
  • 9% say the word like “ain’t”
  • 73% say the word like “ant”
  • All of them pronounced the word like “ant” at some point during our conversation, possibly a reflection of the way I was saying it.
  • One women also spoke of “aunties,” pronounced like “ahnties”

Fortunately, as Goat points out to Pig in the comic strip, we’re not all shooting each other over this difference in how we say “aunt.” Continue reading