Every childhood should have a magical frontier – a place that’s familiar, and yet unexplored. For me, that land of enchantment was called “Grandma’s House.”
Every time I lifted the lid of the steamer trunk in the basement, I held my breath. Perhaps I would find a silk ballgown among the dress-up clothes. Maybe the heavy clip-on earrings would be replaced by thick strands of pearls straight from the Orient. And even if untold riches weren’t discovered, the common glittered because there were others whose eyes shone just like mine when the old lid creaked.
Throughout history, no finer grandparents existed than the five I’ve known. And yet, I suspect I didn’t truly appreciate them until I grew older. As a child, it was the cousins who made Grandma’s house Grandma’s house. They rode in the bicycle basket while I pedaled endlessly around the circle drive. They led the way to the creek in case I’d forgotten since last visit. They lobbied Grandma to start a batch of cookies in anticipation of our arrival. Cousins sent us tearing out of the car in search of the fun that was already underway.
This Thanksgiving I watched my niece and nephews through the kitchen window as they paired off (or ganged up). Occasionally, one would make a brave raid on the dessert table before dinner and risk being caught by their mother, or worse – by me.
Yes, I remember when my play was interrupted so that adequate Auntie greetings could be made. My unbounded enthusiasm to see my cousins, didn’t suffice. I had to endure the hugs, the pinched cheeks and comments on family resemblances before I could return to the important work of exploring the drawer of forgotten cosmetics in the guest bathroom.
But now, when I hear quick feet coming around the corner, I understand why my aunts stopped us. I think I know what they wanted to say as they squeezed us and did their best to get our attention for just a moment.
I think if I would have stood still long enough they would’ve said –
Although we don’t see each other often, you are special to me. You see friends, teachers, and neighbors everyday, but I’m your aunt. I’m your kin. When I hear you coming I remember how your mother sang when she skipped through the house. I remember your dad climbing that same tree. Having you around brings back memories of my siblings – of my childhood that I’d forgotten. It’s alright if you only think of me as your cousins’ Mom. It’s alright if you don’t have time to talk right now, but remember, you are special to me. And I earnestly hope that someday I will be special to you, too.
And they are. Aunts, Great-aunts, my father’s cousins that were as much “Aunts” to me as any – those hugs and pinches must have done the trick, because your message got through to an impatient child with mischief on her mind. I love you, too.
And to my niece and nephews – Deacon, Bo, Walker, Weston, Emma, Jake, Colton, Wyatt, Chapel, Baby girl coming in February, and any others I haven’t heard about – y’all wear yourselves out while you play with your cousins. They are way more fun than we are. And if you get a quiet moment on your way home to think about all the family you saw, remember that your aunts lay claim to you no matter how many grown-ups think you’re remarkable. They love you like you’re their own. And in a way, you are.