Aunt of Two

Becoming an aunt for the first time both touched my heart and opened up the place where the new family member took up residence. It confirmed and strengthened a large part of my long-standing feelings about family as a whole, as well as giving me a new understanding of myself as an adult.

Like all relationships, being an aunt is a continuing process. I learn, I cry (not with the kid, I hold it in and let loose later), I laugh, I smile before I even know I’m doing so, I visit, I play, I run and I stop to look at flowers in the grass outside. I make up nicknames with lightning speed and my voice changes pitch when I praise.

Conversations with family have expanded to include this experience and I know for sure that they will feel the same way I do when we talk, with our individual perspectives chipping in. I am, in short, invested, and I care. You see your sibling, now a parent, in a new light, and as you observe them with respect and a full heart, you may get a glimpse of what it was like for your parents, now the newly minted grandparents, to care for you and your siblings before your memory began to form.

I have now become an aunt for a second time and as we say in the family, I’m immediately aware. Everything I knew my heart to do before has happened again, and it still feels new, infinite. There is room for everyone.

The most humbling part about this experience is that I keep thinking the children didn’t ask for an aunt who still cries during (well-acted) sad scenes in movies, to name just one example, who is obsessed with using gifs in all forms of chatting and texting, and loves to grab almost any kind of freebies just because they are free (take now, sort later!). In fact, they didn’t know one single thing about me until we met, just as I couldn’t know what they would be like until I saw them. But during that first-time meeting I knew that this was how it was supposed to be, then and there.

Acceptance as an aunt is not to be taken for granted. I feel strongly that everything that makes up my life, especially the parts connected to my ever-developing self-awareness, values, thoughts on what kind of person I want to be and how I treat family and friends – all this, so crucial already, takes on an added, life-affirming importance because of two growing people who will know what I’m up to, since we are included in each other’s lives.

I do want to be an example to myself, and if by doing so I will also contribute in a positive way to someone else watching me (in addition to going to their parents first) from their smaller height as their world gets bigger every day, that will be the best mutual gift that aunthood could give.

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Aunt in Progress

Your eyes changed colour some more since the last time we met. The traces of grey-blue were still visible, but they are gradually being replaced by other hues. I wonder if your eyes will be like your grandmother’s and mother’s, if you will share that same unique shade.

One day you were sitting on your mother’s lap at the dining room table and gazing around with wide eyes at us big people talking. Your grandmother stroked your mother’s hair and yours, looked at both of you, smiled and said, “Child of my child.”

At this point in time you and I seem to have established a pattern of moments when you recognize me. You looked around with a curious and questioning expression on your small face when your mother brought you to my side in the mornings, then your mouth turned up in an open, toothless smile when your eyes settled on me, and you bounced a little in your mother’s arms. After that you would always zero in on and reach for the beautiful shawl from your other aunt that I loved to wrap myself in, which is also true for your mother. Clearly we all share the same good taste!

During an outing I gave you my finger to hold while you lay in your pram, and you turned your hand around, so I carefully put my palm against yours. You tried to interlace your fingers with mine, but your hand was still tiny, fitting completely in the palm of mine. We looked at each other and I hoped you could hear my thought that I would always be there for you.

Your energy and increasing awareness of your surroundings remind me of your mother as a baby. When you focus on something, I have to remember your father’s face when he’s figuring out a task. Your vivacity makes me think of your shawl-giving aunt. The way you and your grandfather sometimes look at each other with the same twinkling, satisfied expression is uncanny. When you are quiet and settled, maybe thoughtful, your grandmother’s serene demeaner immediately comes to mind. The way you turn your head to follow your parents’ progress through a room and smile when they near you warms my heart.

There are many more family members walking through my memory as I watch you. You seem to further connect us all in the infinite passage of time.

On the morning before I left you were sitting on my bed, supported a little by your mother and me. I don’t know what you were telling your recently discovered feet, but you were very intent on it. You would turn around and smile when your mother spoke to you or laughed. All I could think was, Kid, I hope you will take as long as you need to figure things (feet) out, and that you will bring the attentiveness, focus, interest and happiness I see growing in you out in to the world.

 

Why I Love Being an Aunt

I have to admit, I’m still a beginner. In fact, I’m a total first-timer! But aunthood has become one of the most (newly) defined things in my life. It truly feels like a new life title that’s been added to the list of other roles that define my personality and which are in turn fed by who I am at my core. So, why do I love being an aunt?

The happiness I experience every time I hear something about the currently smallest member of our family, or better yet, whenever I visit, is instinctive and encompassing. I don’t even have to think about it or analyze it, it’s just there.

It’s like a mix of the best parts of being a big sister, a best friend and a fan rolled in one, with maybe just a dash of parental instincts!

While still adulting on your own and being excited about things, you discover the importance of moments and being present anew, through watching this little person grow, change and react to the world, and to you.

I am proud of the new parents. It is special to see a sibling step in to this new phase of life, with all its challenges, triumphs, surprises, all the highs and lows. It is incredibly touching and humbling at the same time to see someone you’ve known all your life caring so selflessly for a child you are also unquestionably ready to be there for.

 

 

 

Remember Me by Mary Higgins Clark

Menley had always wanted to live in a house. As a little girl she drew pictures of the one she would have someday. And it was pretty much like this place, she thought.

Mary Higgins Clark has been my favorite writer for so long and I have re-read all her books so many times that I can’t remember which of her numerous suspense novels I read first. This is a rare case for me. But it doesn’t really matter, because each of her works takes me on a trip to yet another world that always yields a new discovery even if I’ve been there before. It’s like taking your favorite long walk, and knowing for sure that it’s never truly the same, for all its familiarity. As we grow, as we change, as we learn, so do the literary works that accompany us in life find their way in to the crevices of our evolvement. And so do we identify anew with characters, situations, language and actions. That is the mark of a great author.

The tried and tested, yet irresistible plot formula of a heroine beset by tragedy and struggling to find her way out, while being pulled in to a murder mystery, is, of course, present here too. And it’s not just the main heroine – plenty of characters in the novel carry burdens with them. For some these burdens lead to disastrous life choices, for some they lead to battles of resistance and self-discovery. Mary Higgins Clark’s characteristic empathy and sincerity permeates Remember Me like a warm breeze without being cloying. Serious subject matter is handled with grace and dignity – a refreshing trait. While the topics of murder and death are not presented in a graphic way, as compared to most Scandinavian thrillers, for example, the just right balance of words and description is enough to send a chill down your spine, as well as evoke the feelings of sadness characters are going through.

The next summer they’d lost Bobby. And after that, Menley thought, all I knew was the awful numbness, the feeling of being detached from every other human being…

Mary Higgins Clark has the unique gift of seamless, unburdened prose, which by no means make it simple, but lets it hit right at the heart of the story and the characters’ thoughts.

Though each of her novels is special in its own way, Remember Me stands out for particular reasons. The novel draws the reader in to the story within the story, the writing within the writing, as Menley Nichols herself is getting more and more drawn in to the research of the history of the house she and her family are staying in during their summer in Cape Cod. The feeling of something about to come to a head grows stronger and stronger throughout the novel, as we wonder along with Menley whether the alleged murderer is innocent, if her heart will heal after loosing her first child, and just how deep her connection to the centuries-old story of the former owners of the house is.

Suspense, no other word for it. And first-class writing about life.