[poem + giveaway] the aunts go marching one by one

Art by Elena Narkevich.
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).
Art by Elena Narkevich.


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.

The Yang sisters: Front: Ellen and Mom, Rear l to r: Inez, Linda, Ella. These aunts, whom I was closest to, functioned like a Greek chorus, commenting on everything I said or did.

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.”

Aunty Ella sitting behind me at my second birthday party.

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.



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!


The lovely and talented Heidi Mordhorst is hosting the Roundup at My Juicy Little Universe. Pop on over to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up around the blogosphere this week. Have a nice weekend, and don’t forget to vote on Tuesday if you haven’t already done so!!


*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.

43 thoughts on “[poem + giveaway] the aunts go marching one by one

  1. My favorite aunt was my aunt Concetta, or Coungie. My brother couldn’t say Concetta in Italian, so she became Coungie! She made the most delicious marinated eggplant. When I would sleep over to be with my cousin, Maria, she would prepare an indoor picnic for us Italiano style with Salami and pickled eggplant sandwiches! She was my godmother and my favorite aunt. I really miss her and my cousin.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a celebration of aunts! There is something special, I think, that comes from an abundance of aunts–my experiences of my spouse’s many aunts in compact, cozy England (her parents were one of 9 and of 5) is so different than my experience of 2 aunts (or 4, counting the ones by marriage) whom I grew up far away from. Think how strange it is to realize only rather late in the game that my Aunt Kathy, a children’s librarian, might have been my special aunt, if only we’d lived closer together! Jama, congratulations on your long-lived masterpiece.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. 15 aunts! That’s beautiful. And yay for your Aunt book still being in print — I enjoyed the peek very much. 🙂 My dad was an only child, so no aunts there. My mom’s sisters were more than a decade older than her, and far away geographically, so I don’t have any aunt stories of my own aunts. BUT. I myself LOVE being an aunt to 13! Thanks to my darling niece JuliAnna, I recently became “G.A. Irene” – Great Aunt Irene – to Louis and Mary Clare. And that has been super fun…baby #3 arriving later this month. 🙂 I kind of love that image of you and the Greek chorus, Jama. Thank you for sharing. xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 13 nieces and nephews is wonderful, with the added bonus of being a great-aunt too. I just counted and think I’m a great-aunt to 16 — I think . . . 🙂


  4. What a marvelous post Jama, I’ve smiled and chuckled 🤭 throughout!!! Love 💗 your book, it’s delightful and so is the art! I didn’t have too many aunts growing up, smallish family. However I had some great Aunts who were very talented-2 sisters that lived together. The older one had a dress shop and was an excellent designer and seamstress and also cook. The younger one had a wonderful sense of humor and loved finding silliness in life, they were an odd couple but somehow managed to get along. Thanks for all the early morning smiles! ☺️🍁💙

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your great-aunt sisters sound like very interesting people. When I think of sisters living together, I think of the Baldwin sisters from “The Waltons.” Don’t know if either could sew, but they sure knew how to make moonshine — family recipe, “don’t you know.”


  5. Wow, Jama, I don’t know about this book by you and how wonderful it is to celebrate aunts. I grew up with many, too, and in the early years, great-aunts kept me loved. One special aunt, my Aunt Barbara, a cook and seamstress just as you described, sewed so much for me, & even in her later years she created a whole wardrobe of doll clothes for my daughter. We lived close to her when Arvie & I were married & spent lots of time with her. She kept us fed well from her garden, too. You’ve brought so many memories to me from your post. Your book sounds & looks so special.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. One of my greatest joys is getting to be an aunt—named after one that has passed on. So, I get to carry some of her special magic with me to a new generation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lovely to be named after a special aunt. You probably noticed that one of the Yang sisters was named Linda too, though our family called her by her Korean name, Kyung Sin. Because she lived in California, I always thought of her as the glamorous aunt. She wore make-up every day whether she left the house or not.


  7. My Auntie Marian earned a special place in my heart after once writing to me about an adventure she had with my mom – her sister Helen – in 1939.

    After Helen graduated high school, the duo set out for Los Angeles, California, via Greyhound bus. When they arrived in L.A, Marian and Helen drove around in a rented car to find a room-to-let. The two settled into a new routine – both working at the nearby Sears Roebuck.

    When Pearl Harbor was attacked, Helen convinced Marian to enlist in the Women’s Army Corps with her. The WACs were the first arm of the military to allow women to enlist and to receive oversees assignments.

    Marian was sent to the Pentagon, and Helen was dispatched to the South Pacific, under General MacArthur forces. There, she performed her duties honorably, and met the man that, after the war’s end, would become her husband. Over time, they moved to Colorado and raised a family. I was born the youngest of the couple’s five children.

    I am so proud of both my Auntie Marian and my mom. They demonstrated a rare level of bravery and patriotism.

    This year marks the 81st anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor – as well as what would have been my mom’s 100th birthday. I miss and love both of these amazing women and am proud of everything they did in support of their country and families.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for sharing this heartwarming, inspiring story, Carol. Loved hearing about Auntie Marian and your mom. This strikes a special chord with me, since my mother Margaret also enlisted in the WAC (Hawaii) when she was just 18. We’re all very proud of Margaret’s devotion, bravery, and service to her country. Both my parents lived on Oahu when Pearl Harbor was attacked. I remember my mother explaining how she and many others were adamant about contributing to the war effort. I imagine Auntie Marian and your mother felt the same way. Perhaps if your mom hadn’t been dispatched to the S. Pacific she wouldn’t have met your father. Some things are just meant to be. So happy you found your way to this blog. Thanks again. 🙂


      1. The ladies of the WACs had a special kind of sisterhood. Now, thanks to your blog, we’ve been able to share in it as well!

        Thank you so much for posting your wonderful combination of children’s literature, poetry, and bright, whimsical images.
        Your blog is such a treasure. 💕

        Liked by 1 person

  8. My favorite aunt, Marie, known to all the grandkids as “Ree Ree” had no children of her own, but was like a second grandmother to my daughter and all her cousins. She passed away in 2006 at the young age of 65, after valiantly battling breast cancer on & off for 20 years. She was a fighter, and stuck up for everyone whom she loved. My book, Coyote Moon, is dedicated to her. After she died, I asked her to let me know she was ok by sending me a wild animal sighting. Shortly thereafter I had a close encounter with a coyote that led to the writing of that book <3. If only she were still here with us…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, what a great backstory about Coyote Moon!! Didn’t know about Ree Ree. That is SO cool, Maria. I had shivers down my spine reading your comment.


  9. I had 13 aunts, and my favorite was Aunt Mildred, the youngest one on my Mom’s side. She was fun-loving, always laughing and telling a good story. Now I’m an aunt to seven, and a great-aunt to five, and I hope I’m as kind and fun as she was!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sure you take after Aunt Mildred in the kind and fun department, Marcia. Some of her storytelling talent probably rubbed off on you too. 🙂


  10. What a wonderful tribute post and story, Jama! I have no true aunts. I guess that is a surprise and somewhat sad. But, I appreciate family, still. I had wonderful grandparents and their siblings became my aunts and uncles even though they were great-aunts and great-uncles. My parents are both only children…now still together and in their mid-80s living in their own home. I am a real Aunt to my sister’s two children (now adults). I try to be a good Aunt and make up for not having any of my own. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well great-aunts definitely count — so you were not totally without aunts in your life. Nice to hear your parents are still living in their own home, and that you, yourself are an aunt too. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I smiled and smiled through this post, Jama – love your family pictures, and your wonderful book, and the hilarity of it all. No sisters on my dad’s side. My mother’s only sister died at the age of 19, so I didn’t get to meet her. But I have some of her art supplies. My mother’s mother’s sister, Aunt Gertrude, was a bit of a force. I was so poor in college that I wore some of her hand-me-downs – and she had to be 80 or nearing so at the time! But she had quite the clothes habit, and good taste too, and more means than any of the rest of us at the time.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I long for an extended family. One aunt and uncle who were not part of our lives, and from them three cousins, two still living, not close. No grandparents. It didn’t bother me when I was young, but now I feel a bit untethered.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I only met one aunt of mine a couple of times in my childhood, so I pretty much grew up without aunts or uncles and just one local grandparent (who was not beloved, frankly). Your book sounds delightful! I love that golden lasso in the Linda Lee poem, too, and how it circles (appropriately) back at the end. Thanks, Jama!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. What a special tribute. I didn’t have a lot of aunts growing up, but I inherited many when I married my husband. My favorite aunt was my Aunt Jo who was a great cook and loved her extended family. Would love to wim a copy of your book!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Oh how I enjoyed this post! It must be a “universal truth” that all aunts are special love suppliers.
    I had only two aunts growing up. Each special in their own way. One aunt, my Aunt Chickie, was my SUNSHINE. My own mom was very ill during my childhood and Aunt Chickie, only 12years older than I, did everything to make certain I was happy and didn’t miss out on anything a little girl should experience.
    When I was 60 years old, I finally got to visit my father’s hometown in Italy. There, anxiously awaiting my arrival was a beloved aunt I had never met but whose love for me was immediately apparent. Imagine what a gift I received during that trip! I was a baby again. I basked in the unconditional love of a woman who had waited her whole life for me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Love your stories, Annette! Aunt Chickie sounds like the best — how lucky you were to have her look after you when you were little. And then meeting your other aunt in Italy — I can only imagine the big hugs and smiles and love you experienced upon meeting her for the first time. Thanks for sharing!


  16. Truman’s sign (“Free to Good Homes”) made me laugh out loud. What a delightful book, Jama! I don’t have any aunts because my parents were both only children, so I never knew what it felt like to have an aunt or uncle! Now I’m aunt-to-many through marriage (my husband is from a huge family), and my kids have aunts and uncles to spare. 😀 And I’m an aunt to my brother’s little girl, but my sister wasn’t able to have children — she, however, is a fantastic aunt to my girls! ❤️❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  17. What a wonderful book! And it is so true I love being the aunt! Love unconditionally – celebrate all the things! I have a wonderful Aunt Georgia. We are still texting and visiting when we can. Really my other 2 aunts were always loving and welcoming. Unbelievably, the aunt I communicate with the most is my husband’s! I have only met her three times in person but we message each other several times a week. She loves any pictures I send of anything – flowers, wildlife, my family, her brother (my father n law). Thank you for the reflection.

    Liked by 1 person

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