for my wonderful niece and dashing nephews
She was always busy. With her work, her school, her life. She was busy when my great-grandmother died. Busy when my own mother had breast cancer. The word “busy” is, for me, a synonym that means “I don’t care.” It must be hell to be that busy.
As a young girl, I wrote handwritten letters detailing my life as an elementary school warrior goddess. Then, as a “tween”, I wrote about my budding interests including art and music. My teenaged letters included more of the same but with peppered details about my future dreams.
Most of my letters went unanswered. There were a few empty invitations to visit, but they came when I couldn’t make those decisions for myself and once the relationship was already damaged from years of neglect.
Moms are amazing. The language between mother and daughter is often one of soul to heart, and its’s often not dependent on words for it to make sense. A look. A laugh. Gestures. All communication that is well understood. It cannot be replicated and should be cherished.
But aunts? Aunts are different.
Aunts can love in ways that mirror a best friend but come package wrapped as family. They’re gifts. Particularly for girls.
Aunts are other positive role models, oracles, and confidants when the whole world goes mad.
I don’t know this from experience. My own relationship with my aunt is lackluster at best. Distance, both physical and emotional, has taken its toll. I am no longer the little girl with handwritten letters that hook hopes to promises long gone.
My aunts have been my mom’s friends. Women who by some unknown power have loved, carried, and enriched my life. They have understood and supported me.
“They” say that animals adapt to a change in their environments. And I can testify that family does the same. At least in my experience.
I am an aunt now. And I often wonder if I am a good one. I have two nephews and a niece. My niece, who I want to be good enough for… She’s beautiful and talented. She lives twelve hours from me. And I am afraid that she doesn’t know how often I think about her. About her hopes. About her dreams.
She, and her brothers, came into my life when I was twenty-five. They are the children of my husband’s brother and his sister-in law.
There are days that I am flat out jealous of my sister-in-law’s three sisters. They are biologically connected to my wonderful niece. And I hope that they appreciate her for everything wonderful and promising that she is. I am sure they do… Anyone that watches my niece for three seconds knows that she will make this world a better place. But her other aunts also have geography in their favor. They can see her more, talk to her in person, take her places, and watch her bloom in real time.
Sometimes, I am jealous.
My sister-in-law and brother-in-law recently sent some gifts to me and my husband. One of mine was a cold beverage mug that says “World’s Coolest Aunt.”
My youngest nephew is five. He doesn’t, and won’t, know any other connection to his Uncle Paul other than me, Aunt Melissa. He was only two when I got married. But my other nephew and my niece, they do. They know a family without me in it.
They know a Paul without a Melissa. But they don’t know a Melissa without a Paul.
I don’t know if I do all of the aunt things I should and if I do them right. Please forgive me, I am learning as I go.
Is it still “cool” to say I love you in public? I don’t want to fail to live up to the bar set by my mug.
I do love you guys. So very much.
I may not have been in your lives from the beginning, but I am here now. And I am going to be here. I’ll never be “too busy.”