THE AUNTS by Linda Lee (Konichek) Mom had seven sisters. We cousins have always called them, "The Aunts." They were at each of our births, wonder women, who encircled us with a golden lasso of love that kept us safe. No matter what we needed, "The Aunts" were there; they came to coo and fuss over new babies, bring food and hugs to funerals, attended every milestone. "The Aunts" made each family event a noisy, happy party, shared jokes, gave lots and lots of advice and -- best of all -- brought special presents, wrapped in hugs. "The Aunts" grew up washing dishes and waiting tables in Grandma's restaurant; they were bound to help, took over the work, even in someone else's kitchen. "The Aunts'" potluck dishes could win awards at any county fair; they always brought extra, always helped serve, and left a spotless kitchen and recipes behind. As carpenter's daughters, "The Aunts" could pound a nail, paint a wall, build a shelf. Working right alongside the men, they rebuilt the lake cottage, then taught us to swim and bait a hook. "The Aunts" were always good sports, never too proud or too old to wear the craziest home-made Halloween costumes or to dance the fastest dance with little kids, or each other, at wedding receptions. There was no money for "The Aunts" to go to college, so they read great books, attended seminars, plays, symphonies, honed fine minds, always asked, "Why?", searched for truth, lived their creeds. "The Aunts" eagerly shared whatever we brought to them -- a wriggly face-licking puppy, a fistful of wildflowers, a neat rock with fossils, our best report card, new friends, fresh-picked berries, a fat toad. Now we've become parents, aunts, uncles. Some of "The Aunts" have passed on, but the golden lasso remains, has expanded to encircle all those we love. How can we ever live up to their heroic deeds? They would always expect us to try, so we will . . . try! ~ from Celebrating the Heart-land (Jericho Productions, 2010).
I really enjoyed this poem because 1) I also grew up with a lot of aunts, and 2) they inspired me to write a children’s story about the experience.
I am grateful for my 15 aunts: ten on my mother’s side of the family, five on my father’s. All but three lived in Hawaii, so I got to know them well growing up. Of the 15, six are still alive.
When you think about it, that’s a lot of hugs, special presents, jokes, advice, potluck suppers, and noisy happy parties. Among them: teachers, secretaries, office administrators, a waitress, optician, nurse, and several homemakers.
Aunty Ellen, who was an excellent seamstress, made my senior prom dress. It was at her house that I first saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. Dad said I inherited Aunty Lily’s gift of gab because I used to talk fast and constantly. Aunty Esther baked the best cookies, Aunty Inez, the best apple pie. Aunty Ella was my godmother; she loved to bake, craft, and read – once she lay on the couch all weekend reading Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, then couldn’t stop raving about it. Her pet name for me was “Jade.”
Aunts are a special breed, like having extra sources of unconditional love without the hard and fast discipline of parents. Colorful, talky, quirky, wise, funny, kind, smart, and basically fANTastic, my aunts were my role models, with not a mean one in the bunch.
Since their many ANTics made me somewhat of an aunt expert, I decided to write a children’s story about the essence of auntness. Truman’s Aunt Farm (illustrated by G. Brian Karas) was published in 1994 and is miraculously still in print.
It plays upon my love of puns and homonyms, featuring a boy who receives an ant farm as a birthday present from his Aunt Fran. When he sends away for his vial of ants, he gets aunts instead. What to do with hundreds of hungry aunts appearing on your doorstep?
Like my real life aunts and the aunts in Linda Lee’s poem, Truman’s aunts were game for all kinds of fun activities: kite flying, bubble blowing, dancing, singing, roller skating.
Today, I’m happy to be an aunt too. From a literary standpoint, I know I’m in good company, for there are many memorable ones, including Ramona and Beezus’s Aunt Beatrice, Aunt March from Little Women, Tom Sawyer’s Aunt Polly, the famous Auntie Mame, and best of all, Paddington’s Aunt Lucy. Am I an eccentric aunt? Well, maybe . . . 🙂
Tell us about your aunts.
🐜 SPECIAL BOOK GIVEAWAY!🐜
Paddington and Aunt Lucy would like to share signed paperback copies of Truman’s Aunt Farm with two lucky Alphabet Soup readers. For a chance to win, please leave a comment at this post telling us about your favorite aunt no later than midnight (EST) Wednesday, November 16, 2022. You may also enter by sending an email with AUNTS in the subject line to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com. Giveaway open to U.S. residents only, please. Good Luck!
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*Interior spreads from Truman’s Aunt Farm text copyright © 1994 Jama Kim Rattigan, illustrations © 1994 G. Brian Karas, published by HMH. All rights reserved.
**Copyright © 2022 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.