I love aunts and uncles.
My Uncle Bill died yesterday and it was a reminder of the influence he and the rest of this large contingent of humans that I call family impacted my life.
My dad was one of ten children, my mom one of three. Just with those numbers alone, you can see that the aunt and uncles were plentiful.
But most were married, and in my family we forgot the terms “by marriage.” Several were part of the family longer than I was and the others “joined” when I was young, so I’m not sure that we remember which were “by blood” or not.
My dad’s siblings all settled in this area where I live in North Carolina, within an hour perimeter (at most). My mom’s sisters remained in Wales, so there was more distance, but still we always knew they were there.
Dad’s family were my constants. When my grandparents were alive we had Sunday dinner most weekends and the memories of running between the front porch, where most of the men hung out, to the kitchen and dining room, where the women mostly stayed, created a chaotic but happy atmosphere.
I was one of five children and I had a ton of cousins, so the individual relationships with these folks had lines slightly more blurred than those childless me has with my own nieces and nephews.
Still, what a backdrop of memories they hold over my life. I remember my uncles telling me that the rest of the body of the deer head on the wall of my grandparent’s house was on the other side of the room. I’d go in that room and survey the wall, my logic telling me it couldn’t be possible but my innocence telling me it must be right since that was what my uncles told me. I had not yet learned to trust little of what came out of their mischievous mouths.
I remember another aunt and uncle moving into one of the apartments owned towards the back of my grandparent’s property. They were young and fun and my older sister and I adored this new aunt my uncle had brought home. She worked in a textile factory back then and gave us each our own hand towel and washcloth. Those were precious gifts indeed – we both used them until they were threadbare (and yes, though identical we knew which belonged to which,)
Somewhere I still have the baby gift that another aunt gave me. A plaque with my name, date of birth, time of birth, and weight at birth on it. It always made me feel special, because it was made just for me. Even though my name was misspelled.
Another aunt bought me my first perfume when I graduated from high school and it remains a scent I love.
I remember when I was young staying a couple of nights with this uncle who died last night and my aunt (who we only recently lost.) I’m not sure of the circumstances, but my older sister and I were invited and to stay the night away from home was a rare occurrence. My biggest memory of that time was they ordered pizza with anchovies. We didn’t eat much pizza in our house and anchovies were certainly exotic to us. But we tried them and didn’t hate them – though I can’t say the desire stuck with me beyond that visit, it probably went a long way to making me consider trying new foods.
I could probably come up with a lot more stories, but ultimately my aunts and uncles were a constant presence of expansive family in my life. Being so large our family was probably a bit different than yours, but my memories were of chaos and laughter and love and really great food. I suspect many of you hold the same sort of memories.
Everyone didn’t get the same type of family as mine and I know some have aunts and uncles whose presence did not enhance their world. I suspect if I were to compare notes with my siblings and cousins, their memories and experiences would most certainly be a lot different than those I have.
But for me, my aunts and uncles are a sweet gift whose influence will keep giving me strength for the rest of my days. Losing any one of these people tilts my world a bit off its axis and takes away pieces of life as we know it. But what a great fortune I received in them and I will be forever grateful that they have been so present in the backdrop of my life. They are part of me and nothing will ever take away the things about each of them that changed who I am.
I love aunts and uncles, because they are a great gift that God gave me that has brought encouragement, laughter, love, and a measure of exasperation to my life. They are a very good gift.
“The family is link to our past, bridge to our future.” – Alex Haley