Family faces are magic mirrors. Looking at the people who belong to us we see the past, the present, and the future. — Gail Lumet Buckley
Aunts and Uncles. They are like our parents, but not quite. We get to see them interact with each other as brothers and sisters, we see their similarities and differences….and the relationships that build between the generations is something special and unique. After all, when Aunts and Uncles visit, they don’t have to do the parenting thing — mom and dad are there for that. They can just swoop in for the fun stuff.
I’m lucky enough in my family to have several Aunts and Uncles from both sides, many of whom are thankfully still with us. At this point in our lives, they are now part of that “older” generation that we look to for their wisdom, their stories of the past, and for whom we hold profound respect. Every one of my Aunts have been strong, smart, and fascinating Real Women. I have learned something from each of them, and cherish each of their personalities.
I have my California Aunt, who hasn’t lived on the west coast for many years, but I still think of her that way – artistic, a writer, and an avid swimmer. There’s the Aunt who to me always looked like she walked out of a Talbot’s catalog, with incredible strength and sense of loyalty; after my mom passed away, she became my closest connection to her other than my siblings. There is the Aunt with virtually unlimited energy and zeal for life, incredibly active and family-centered, who never seems to age. We’ve got the charming Aunt and Uncle not related by blood but by friendship and history, who are considered family. And of course there’s the Aunt and Uncle who are the youngest of that generation and therefore always seemed the coolest, the easiest to relate to. All of them are woven into this fabric of extended family, spread out all over the country….and although we certainly don’t see them often enough, they are that mature, wiser, rather fascinating generation with whom we wish we could spend more time.
This weekend during a short family vacation, my husband and I had the opportunity to spend some time with our nephews from his side of the family. Now grown men, they have families and lives of their own. They invited us, and our son, to meet them for dinner Saturday night with a few of their friends and family members – it was a group ranging in age from teens to late thirties. We planned to meet at 8pm, so we went back to the hotel to rest that afternoon before venturing out. As we were getting ready to meet them, I tried to put together an outfit that would make me feel at least somewhat trendy and not dumpy (did I mention one of the young women in the group also happens to be a model?). While I was adhering concealer over my wrinkles, I heard by husband ask “these don’t look like old man pants, do they?” And it dawned on me. The shift had happened. We now are that older Aunt and Uncle generation. Somehow, in a blink of an eye, we were no longer the nieces and nephews, we were on the other side – we have become those mature relatives in town visiting. We are the ones who needed to rest up before a late dinner outing. We were the ones worried about looking “old”. We were the ones swooping in for the fun.
During dinner, I heard my husband dispensing advice and funny stories from the past. We listened to their exciting plans for the future – one young lady was venturing into her first career, one was opening her first Salon, one nephew is starting a new business venture. They all have that youthful vitality, working on that shift into being mature adults. The teenagers looked up from their handheld electronics from time to time to roll their eyes at their parents.
When dinner was over, one nephew left to take his kids home, the other was headed out for drinks and dancing with the young ladies. We heard a few comments from them encouraging us to move closer, and we all talked about plans for the next time we visit. It felt like some sort of cosmic shift. I was seeing the past me, the current me, and the future me all rolled into one experience.
I’m sure I’m not alone, and that most of us Real Women don’t really notice this natural progression of life until it smacks us right between the eyes. In our minds, we are still the kids, the younger generation – until somehow without us watching, that shifts, and we aren’t anymore. We’ve moved into the next phase and that generational torch is passed on.
As we drove back to the hotel, I thought about what that generation has before them, and of how we’ll get to watch them experience it. Sure, I’ll admit that I felt that small yet familiar pang of bittersweet amazement over how fast time flies, but for the most part I felt content. Then I decided to do all I can to make sure I go down in the books as one of the cool Aunties.
This is beautiful, and it resonated. I too was lucky to have many cool aunts (and uncles), but haven’t quite yet moved into that category, a few years down the track still.