Her name was Marie, but it was easier to say Mimi when we were little. She was our favorite aunt, red haired, freckled. She loved us without conditions. She always had gum in her purse and sometimes she’d let one of us stay the night. She had two children of her own so it was an undertaking to have even one of us over.
At the time they lived in a small bungalow and I remember one overnight that lasted into the next day until mid-afternoon. That morning, after my uncle went off to work, Aunt Mimi piled her two and me into the car because she needed milk. I even remember the name of the place where she got it, Luken’s Dairy. She bought milk and then to our delight asked if we’d like Creamsicles. Boy, would we! My mother, her older sister, never would have done that simply because she couldn’t afford it – not with seven mouths to feed. I felt like a queen as we drove away happily slurping my frozen delight. I couldn’t wait to tell my brothers and sisters and maybe gloat a little. At home that night I cried into my pillow because I missed my aunt. It was a strange kind of longing I’d never experienced before. Unconditional love does that to you even if you’re only a kid.
Aunts. What a delight they can be. Slightly like grandparents but not as old. Slightly like siblings but not in competition like a brother or sister. Aunts often come bearing gifts. Food treats and small toys or maybe a cute summer top. They treat you differently than your mom. They never tell you to go clean your room or quit hitting your brother, but ask instead about school or tell you your hair looks nice. It made the three hours preening in front of the bathroom mirror well worth it.
I have a friend whose granddaughter was just escorted through London and Paris by her aunt. A graduation gift. How cool is that? Yet another friend consistently remembers the birthdays and special celebrations of nieces and nephews who sometimes seem ungrateful. She’s absolutely wonderful to them. Another friend, never married, is the aunt dropped from heaven to her nephew. She’s helped him in every phase of his life and recently made his wedding cake. She’s extraordinarily talented with batter and frosting. My list of loving aunts is as long as my arm.
I regret that I’m not closer to my nieces and nephews. They all live on the west coast and here I am in the east, having married a sailor from New York and all. Fortunately they have aunts and uncles galore so they don’t miss whatever it is I would add to the mix. I keep up with them through Facebook and feel a little sorry for myself that I can’t be at their ballgames and dance recitals. I’m there in spirit and ask for the highlights from their grandmothers, my sisters.
My aunt Marie has been gone for many years. She died too young of a horrible disease. But I’m hoping to grab a seat next to her at the Great Banquet in heaven. I’ll remind her of how much I loved her sense of humor, her willingness to understand a dumb kid, the Juicy Fruit she shared – stuff like that. And I know I won’t have that seat long as many others will want to have a word. She’ll make room for all of us, I’m sure. ‘Cuz good aunts are like that – yeah, they are.
Image: Stuart Miles Free Digital Photos