Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Orphaned Aunty

I've been an aunt since I was 14. I saw Diane within ten minutes of her birth: a tiny, red-faced baby, a whole separate person who had come out of my sister's body. (At 44, I should be used to the idea that little tiny people grow inside of women's bodies, but it still amazes me every time.) My newest nibling is actually a great-niece, the lovely Jessica, who is two years old now.

Most of my life I've performed the classic auntly services of hugging, telling stories, watching kid videos endlessly, playing silly games, taking walks, and teaching useful skills from the alphabet to cooking. I also know how to change diapers, wipe up spilled milk without anybody's crying, and offer older niblings exactly the advice they would get from their parents if they asked, which they won't.

But I'm living 3000 miles from my nearest nibling. I don't have a baby in my life, or a toddler, or even an active nine-year-old like my nephew Nicholas. I don't have teenagers like Sara and Daniel hanging out, eating cookies, and telling me about their lives, or adult nieces like Christy and Rachel discussing the ups and downs of young marriage. I'm an orphaned aunty.

Some friends of ours have a beautiful five-year-old. Last time we were there, Ruth got in my lap and then led me around the house, showing me things. I felt honored -- and auntly. I'm hoping to ease some of my nibling-need by spending more time with Ruth and with the handsome new grandson of my friend Joanie. But I do miss my own wonderful niblings -- as much as I miss my mother and sisters, and I miss them a lot.

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