We were very lucky as children, my sister and I, as our parents both came from large families, both having three other siblings, so we had six Aunts and Uncles. Although we all lived in different parts of the UK, my parents ensured that we saw plenty of our Aunts, Uncles and cousins as we were growing up. We would take Easter holidays in Donegal where we would stay with Mum’s elder sister and their three boys. We enjoyed carefree holidays beside the beach, having lots of adventures together, while my parents did gardening and our Aunt and Uncle ran a beautiful hotel. In the Summer we would go to the Isle of Wight, again by the sea, where we would spend time with Dad’s youngest brother, his wife and his daughter, who farmed there while we were young. Often we would coincide at the family holiday home with Dad’s older sister and her husband or Dad’s brother and family too, alongside Granny and Grandpa so they were family holidays too. As we were teenagers and moved from Scotland, where we had been close to Mum’s youngest sister, to Cheshire, we were closer to Mum’s middle sister and we saw her, her husband and our two younger cousins regularly for lunches and family parties.
As we have grown up, and particularly since we have lost Mum and Dad, those Aunt and Uncle relationships have become even more precious to me and I try to keep in touch as often as possible. We always catch up with my Isle of Wight family whenever we go down there. We set up a WhatsApp group with two of Mum’s younger sisters, called ‘Mum Update’, when she was first in hospital as a way of keeping them both informed of her progress. When she died, I asked if we could keep that group going as it was full of love and support, so we communicate regularly on that medium, which is very special to me. I plan to see Mum’s youngest sister soon in Scotland on our way home from our rail trip, as we change trains in Edinburgh, so I am looking forward to that.
It is a very special relationship that of Aunt and Uncle and I have come to appreciate it even more ,sadly since Mum and Dad are no longer around. They have known my sister and I all of our lives and can remember stories from when we were small that we will not recall. When I look at my Dad’s younger brother now, I am mesmerised by his hands, arms and facial expressions which are so reminiscent of Dad. They are very different personalities, yet physically he makes me feel closer to Dad. That is the same with my Mum’s sisters, they all have very different personalities, of course, but with their shared upbringing, they remind me so much of Mum, especially in the way that they speak, so that brings comfort in their presence.
Yesterday, we went to see our young niece and nephew perform in a production of ‘The Little Mermaid’ that they had been rehearsing for for months. We were that proud Aunt and Uncle sitting in the stalls eagerly waiting for their appearances and cheering her dancing as a seagull and holding our breath through his lines. It was good fun and Joshua lasted longer than I expected, given that it was the hottest day of the year so far. These are our youngest niece and nephew, as the majority are all in their 20s now and making their ways in their careers and personal lives – all three nieces were engaged to be married last year! I feel like the saying about being an Aunt is true : I love them all like a parent, but act like a friend. Again WhatsApp is a great way to stay in touch when we do not live too close by.
I am hoping to see my sister’s daughter later today as Joshua and I are heading over to my sister’s house. We will have lunch and then go to a gala together where she will be dancing with her group and we will be cheering from the sidelines. I can recall going to see my niece dancing in several galas with Mum when she was younger, we would have a picnic and make a day of it and the sun always seemed to be shining. So today will be fun. Then Joshua is staying for a sleepover with his Aunt and Uncle, for the first time in their new bungalow, and I will drive home alone. Being an Aunt to Joshua takes a bit more work than a ‘normal’ 21 year old nephew, so I am very grateful for the break and I hope it goes well for everyone concerned. We will meet up halfway somewhere to fetch him back tomorrow afternoon.
Being ,and having , an Aunt is a real privilege and a relationship that I treasure.