Organized Rambling: Aunt and Uncle’s Day

Organized Rambling

July is home to one of our nation’s most favored
holidays – Fourth of July – a day marking
freedom, patriotism, and, I think, responsibility.

Responsibility to take care of our country and the freedoms we hold dear, as well as shooting off fireworks in a responsible fashion. But did you know another holiday occurs at the end of the seventh month? One that also necessitates a hefty amount of responsibility?

National Aunt and Uncle’s Day

This Wednesday – July 26 – is National Aunt and Uncle’s Day and it’s a day to celebrate those special relatives who provide love, guidance, support, advice, friendship, and, of course, fun and laughter to their nieces and nephews from day one on. Aunts and uncles shoulder a different kind of responsibility than parents, but responsibility nonetheless. Our nieces and nephews look to us for direction, comfort, hugs, excitement, adventure, and all sorts of silliness, and it’s our responsibility to deliver.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I saw almost all of my aunts and uncles at the same time and in the same place, bringing back great memories from my childhood. So, in honor of this week’s holiday, which has been a thing since 1997, I’m going to wax a bit on what it’s like to be an aunt to a recently turned two-year-old and make some literary connections.

Being an Aunt

First of all, being an aunt is simply the best (RIP Tina Turner) – all of the fun and none of the sleepless nights (sorry, parents). The worst part is not seeing my niece as often as I would like and sometimes being denied by her in favor of other family members – ouch. The rejection of a toddler has hurt more than being rejected by literary journals and writing competitions.

In my aunthood, I strive to be cool and fun, someone who is game for anything – reading the same book ten times in a row, dancing to Disney tunes, making ridiculous noises, drawing picture after picture, and being silly to get a laugh – I’d do just about anything to make my niece giggle and smile. As I shared some time ago, I am that weird aunt, so there’s no shame in this game for me. I will make a complete fool of myself at the drop of a hat.

When the idea came to mind to highlight this extended relative day and discuss my experience as an aunt, I also decided to delve into a few literary aunt characters that many are probably familiar with – Aunt Em from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Aunt Alexandra from To Kill a Mockingbird, and Aunt Beast from A Wrinkle in Time. There are some similarities and significant differences between mine and their approaches to aunthood, so here we go!

Aunt Em, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)

More than a century ago, this aunt ambled into the world through the words of L. Frank Baum and his extensive series chronicling the wild occurrences of the Land of Oz.

It’s never disclosed whether Aunt Em is young Dorothy’s blood relative, an aunt by marriage, or just an aunt by name, but we do know that she cares deeply for Dorothy even though she doesn’t always show it. Aunt Em’s presence in the books is relatively small, but as some say, there are no small roles, and to Dorothy, Aunt Em is a big part of her life. Dorothy’s request to the magic silver shoes (not ruby red, much to my heart’s disappointment) was to be taken home to Aunt Em. Some aunts aren’t affectionate all the time, but they are when it counts, like when Aunt Em showers Dorothy with kisses when the girl finally awakens after the twister.

For myself, I am the kind of aunt who seeks hugs, snuggles, and smooches at all times, so there’s no question regarding my affection for my niece. That’s where Aunt Em and I differ, but we both care immensely for our nieces, and we’re both knitters. But the question remains – is Aunt Em also a crocheter like me??

Aunt Alexandra, To Kill a Mockingbird (1960)

For this literary aunt, you may think she and I are peas in a pod based on the perfunctory similarity of bearing the same name; however, we are different in almost every way.

In Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Jem’s and Scout’s aunt is a traditionalist bent on upholding the family reputation that her unruly niece seems determined to buck with her tomboy tendencies. She believes that femininity comes in only one flavor, and Scout wholeheartedly disagrees. It’s the age-old Katherine Hepburn dress versus pants predicament, and Aunt Alexandra is committed to squashing that perspective or “streak” out of her niece.

I, on the other hand, have already bucked tradition and walked the walk of the family black sheep, so who am I to deny my niece her wild and kooky mannerisms? Unlike Lee’s married Finch matriarch, I fully embrace the unusual, weird, and expectation-breakers – I support the “streak” that runs like a wild hare through my niece’s character and personality. The more outlandish the personality, the better, I say.

Now, where Aunt Alexandra and I intersect – aside from both of us being ‘protectors and defenders of mankind’ – is that we each care deeply for our family – blood or chosen. But I disagree with her desire to stifle and control her niece. It’s the job, nay the responsibility, of an aunt or uncle to embolden and encourage their siblings’ children and be a source of safety and support – that’s the kind of Aunt Alexandra I want to be.

Aunt Beast, A Wrinkle in Time (1962)

Coming from one of my book loves, Aunt Beast from Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time is one of my top five favorite aunt characters, and she’s only an aunt because poor Meg Murray didn’t know what else to call the blind, six-legged furry creature who nursed her back to health.

A pivotal secondary character, like any good aunt or uncle, Aunt Beast provides food, rest, care, and love to the injured Meg. This particular aunt even fights against the growing darkness and helps Meg find the strength to carry on and defeat IT – the book’s baddie – thus saving her brother, Charles Wallace.

I strive to be like Aunt Beast – blind to the unimportant, nurturing, cuddly, and maker of delicious food. Meg may have fallen into blissful sleep snuggled up against Aunt Beast’s fur, but the days of my chubby niece curling up against my bony shoulder have long since passed; however, I cherish the memory.

Whilst nurturing, Aunt Beast does have to put up with some stubbornness on Meg’s part, and boy, oh boy, have I witnessed some piglet-headedness from my little godchild (yes, not only am I her aunt, but I am also her godmother – double duty!). But in the future, when my niece feels weak, sad, or vulnerable, I hope she seeks my help and guidance, stubbornness aside.

Aunt Ham (Est. 2021)

And just to set the record straight, I’m not Aunt Al, Aunt Alexandra, or even Aunt Alex – I’m Aunt Ham. Strange, right? Tres unusual, no? Absolutely. I received this amazing nickname one Easter when I fed my brother and sister-in-law’s dog a piece of ham. My SIL told me I was now Aunt Ham to their dog, and from that day forward, I was committed to being Aunt Ham to any and all of my future nieces and nephews. I answer to Aunt Ham, Ham, or Hammie, and I pray that my niece still uses these nomenclatures as a teen and beyond.

Upon reflection, none of the abovementioned aunts (myself included) are perfect. Aunt Em was sometimes a bit cold toward Dorothy; Aunt Alexandra was too demanding of Scout sometimes; and Aunt Beast might’ve coddled Meg a tad much, but their hearts were in the right place. And I, a 33-year-old, highly imperfect aunt, may encourage the kooky side of my niece more than necessary, but I love her exactly the way she is – wild, wacky, and weird – and I look forward to strengthening our bond in the years to come.

Happy National Aunt and Uncle’s Day to all you important secondary players. Remember, there are no small roles, especially when it comes to positively impacting a child’s life.

Coming up next:

A Euro Trip Recap


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