Daughter. Granddaughter. Sister. Niece. Cousin. Wife. Mother.
I’ve been all these things in my 30-plus years, but one thing I’ve never been is an aunt.
Until this little guy entered the world on Wednesday.
I have to admit: I’m a little bit nervous about the role. I’m not exactly sure what an aunt is “supposed” to do. Being an aunt is not a clearly defined role, in my mind. At least, not like those other roles. I’ve had moments where I haven’t been sure what to do as a wife or mother or daughter, but for some reason, those roles and titles are more comfortable to me.
“Aunt,” on the other hand, well, that’s a whole new ball game. The word conjures up images of everything from cooky old ladies who give sloppy smooches and wear too much lipstick to hip, young girls whose older siblings have kids and are more like cousins.
Neither of those is my experience, by the way.
If I want to know how to be an aunt, and a good aunt at that, I don’t have to look very far.
When I think of a great aunt (not a great-aunt, though she is that now to my kids), my aunt Dina comes to mind. She has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I don’t mean she showed up to family functions and I vaguely knew who she was. Aunt Dina and her husband, my uncle Lewie, have invested in my life in ways I can never pay back. They spent time with me, let me sleep over at their house, supported me, challenged me and loved me. Honestly, it’s just who they are. I don’t know if they intended to play such an important role in my life, but their involvement and care drew me to the God they loved and served. They are a major reason I miss our home church. My husband and I have served with them in youth ministry, which has been an awesome blessing. Aunt Dina is the kind of aunt who always gives hugs and who is open to talking about anything (especially the stuff you never wanted to ask your mom about … no offense to moms). And she’s fun. Contagious fun. She tells my daughter that purple is God’s favorite color. I smile just thinking about her. If I could be half the aunt to my nephew that Dina has been to me, I’ll be doing good.
Then there’s this lady.
I totally sniped this picture of her. She probably would have posed and smiled if I’d have asked, but I didn’t. Aunt Nancy entered my life later when she married my Uncle Kent. I think I was in high school. She is a positive, encouraging and caring person who expressed her love for our family from the start. For an insecure, self-conscious, occasionally depressed teenager, her love — spoken and otherwise expressed — was a HUGE boost to my confidence. She countered my negative image of myself with positives. When I had a bad break-up in college, she encouraged me that it was his loss. She, too, spoke of God and faith in ways that made me curious and hopeful. She is the life of a party, a great listener and quick-witted. At our recent family Christmas gathering, when my brother was going on and on about how ideal my parents’ house will be when the zombie apocalypse happens, she listened patiently and then interjected dreamily, “And it’s so beautiful when it snows.” We all cracked up. Except my brother. Aunt Nancy is another great example for me to follow in the aunt department.
And my aunts don’t end there! Aunt Vicky, I remember, had the most interesting Barbie collection. I couldn’t play with any of them, but I loved to look. She made a wall hanging of my name that I kept on display until college, I think. Maybe after. I still have it. She hasn’t let up now that she, too, is a great-aunt, making aprons for my daughter. I think some of this craftiness rubbed off. The day my sister-in-law was in labor, I made a card with the kids and then had the urge to get back into cross-stitch to make things for baby Kaiden’s room. Do all aunts do this? Probably not.
Aunt Bev and Aunt Shelly, I’ll admit, I don’t know well, even though they’ve been in my life for as long as I can remember. This, I know, though: I think of them fondly and always enjoyed family get-together they were a part of. Even now, we keep in limited contact through Facebook. (The wonders of technology!)
I share one thing in common with all of my aunts: they all married in to the family. I have no aunts related to me by blood. That is my position with baby Kaiden: aunt by marriage, not by blood. But if I’ve learned anything from these great women in my life, it’s that it doesn’t matter how I came to be a part of my nephew’s life just as long as I am a part of his life.
Living 700 miles away from our first nephew right now stings a little bit. It might be six months before we see him, but the aunts and uncles in our kids’ lives have proved that it’s possible to be involved, to shower love from afar and to invest in the life of a niece and nephew.
Becoming an aunt has given me a lot to think about.
If you’ve got a great aunt or you are one, let’s talk!
What makes someone a great aunt? How have your aunts made a difference in your life?