By Jay Holmes
After dealing with so much grim material of late, like Iran and Syria, I needed to write about something more cheerful.
In the USA, we celebrate Mothers Day on the second Sunday of each May. We celebrate Fathers Day on the third Sunday of each June.
At some point over the years, these holidays have taken on gift giving traditions. I can remember many of the gifts my sons gave me on Fathers Day. All of them are handmade, and I still have them. I keep them where I can easily see them when I am home. They bring me fond memories of two cute boys who are now grown and no longer sit in my lap. They stopped asking for horsey rides a long time ago, and the store bought stuff that they and my wife shopped for with the best of intentions has been long forgotten.
Each year on Mothers Day, I remember my mother, and I wonder what we might do with that day if we’d had a little more time together. I also remember my Aunt Lily. She was a remarkable woman. When I was a child, she always ignored the adults who were entering her house until she had greeted me with warm affection and a long hug. In all of the years I knew her, I never received a negative word from her.
Every year on Fathers Day, I find myself thinking about one particular uncle. I don’t just think about him on Fathers Day, I think about him frequently. He was a special guy, and I was lucky to have him. It occurs to me that we have no special day to commemorate those special aunts and uncles who make a difference in our lives.
Piper and I have decided to declare March 12 to be National Aunts and Uncles Day. Unlike the nominally invented Aunts and Uncles Day an unknown person on the internet designated in July, our National Aunts and Uncles Day should involve no gift giving beyond your love and devotion, and no cash beyond the small cost of buying paper and a pen to make a homemade card. Store bought cards and gifts will not be part of the tradition.
In preparation for Aunts and Uncles Day on March 12, I want to share a few memories of my Aunt Lily today, and of my Uncle Tony on Sunday. I hope that you readers will, in turn, share memories of the special aunts and uncles in your lives.
La Tia Mia
My Aunt Lily was from Puerto Rico. She had married my mother’s brother, Ricardo. Ricardo and I got along well. I credit him for being one of my many relatives who saw to it that I was well steeped in the art of sarcasm, and in the advanced ability to render huge insults in Spanish without cursing.
One Christmas, when I was ten years old, I thanked my uncle for marrying my aunt. He was surprised and didn’t quite know how to respond, but he smiled and said, “I love you, Kid.” I told him I loved him too. He died of a massive heart attack the next day. I was glad I had told him.
Everywhere my Aunt Lily went, she brought her lighthearted laughter. She could joke about anyone while offending no one. Everyone laughed when Lily was around. Even when people were deeply concerned about problems in their lives, she would cheer them up effortlessly.
In the dullest of settings and moments, Lily could find and point out hilarity from amongst the mundane. She never missed spotting beauty wherever she found it. She would point out a nice set of lace window curtains or a nicely made rocking chair. Things I might have missed if she had not been there teaching me to see beauty. For her, the world was a source of comedy and a giant art museum.
She could always see past the worst to find the best. Whenever I visited her, I accompanied her through her neighborhood on visits so the many neighbors she was close to and who loved her could get a first hand update on what her nephew was doing and how much he had grown in the months (later years) between visits. I always took great pleasure in how my aunt’s neighbors greeted her. They went out of their way to treat me like a close friend, simply because I was Lily’s favorite nephew.
At a young age, it was clear to me that my aunt was a special woman of great importance. She had earned the trust, love, and admiration of so many people in her community. I felt privileged to walk with one of the world’s great and important people when I would accompany her in my youth. I feel that way still.
Now it’s your turn. Who are the special aunts, related or not, who live in your hearts?
Great post! I love that we have Aunt and Uncles Day!
Thank You Susie
I have so many, it’s hard to narrow it down. However, since my mother died in 2004 (at age 65), my Aunties have stepped to center stage. These are the ladies I call to check in with and keep up with family now that my mom is gone. One is my mom’s sister, one is her sister-in-law and one was her best friend.
Together, they are a huge part of my life and I appreciate them. I have wonderful uncles on both sides of my family but this post brought my Aunties to mind. 🙂
Hi Jenny. I’m glad that you have your aunts and uncles. Life is better when we have people that we can trust and admire.
Your aunt sounds absolutely beautiful. it warms my heart just reading about her.
I have many aunts. Some nice. Some funny. Some not so nice or funny. But I’ll always have a special place in my heart for Aunt Carrie. She’s the kind of aunt that saw me sweeping the floor or doing dishes and longing to go play, and she’d finish the chore for me. She really listened to me when I talked, even when I was a kid, and even would cry with me when I was upset. A more tender hearted person I’ve never met.
Thanks for instituting this wonderful holiday.
Hi Ellie Ann. I knew there had to be some kind folks in your family. I’m sure that your aunt looks at you now and is pleased with how her niece turned out.
I have such a blessed relationship with two of my biological aunts – one from my mother’s side and one from my father’s side. I was actually lucky enough to just spend an entire weekend with one of this fabulous ladies. Our relationships with our mothers and grandmothers don’t need explanation, but I feel just as close with my two aunts. I can only hope to share the same relationships with my nephews and niece when they are older.
Happy Aunts and Uncles Day everyone!
Hi Tiffany. “I can only hope to share the same relationships with my nephews and niece when they are older.”
One of the great things about being an aunt or uncle is that in most cases kids don’t expect as much from us so a little bit of love and attention almost always gets a great response. I would say don’t wait. Go ahead and sit them in your lap and read to them while they are young.
I had two favorite aunts, Ann and Sophie. They were opposites. While Ann was no nosense and didn’t tolerate foolishness, Sophie was indulgent and though she didn’t have children of her own she indulged me like a doting mother. Ann was married to a dissolute who tried her patience until she tossed him out and he moved in with his mother. Sophie was married a very long time to my Uncle Jerry. He brought an Italian sensebility to the marriage, everything tastes better with red sauce. They died two years apart and I miss them both. I didn’t say I love you enough.
Hi tomwisk. I’m glad you had those aunts and the uncle as well. The value of an Italian uncle can hardly be overstated.
Your story is so sweet, Holmes. You totally shocked me with the ‘he died of a massive heart attack the next day’. I was not expecting that, but like you, I’m glad you got to tell him you loved him.
Sadly, my aunts and uncles lived far away from us and I only got to see them every few years. Since I was the youngest, my siblings claimed them as their favorites and I got stuck with grandpa. Lucky me! And I mean that in the best possible way. My grandpa was hilarious and we’d sit around laughing our butts off at something someone said or did. Since my grandma was deaf, we’d have to translate for her and then the three of us would laugh again.
So I guess all my aunts and uncles are my favorites because I got more time with my grandparents.
Hi Tameri. The idea of you and your grandpa having to translate and then laugh again would make a nice scene in a movie. I’m glad that you got that time with your grandparents.
Is it the beauty of spring that makes us nostalgic? I wrote a post about my great grandmother this past week, and was touched by the comments.
Now I so get why my post triggered a response in others. Thank you, Piper. Aunt Lily sounds like a fantastic lady. I can’t wait to read about your Uncle Tony.
Hi Sherry. I will find your article tonight.
I am having to figure out how to pare down my post on my uncle Tony. I felt bad when I submitted it to Piper for edit because I left out too much of him. Piper told me today that it was over 2,000 words which makes it “War and Peace” in the “e” world so I will have to rethink it.
I’m okay with War & Peace if there’s no test afterwards. My op: Give us the full Tony.
Thanks for sharing these intensely personal stories. They made my eyes water a little…if you know what I mean.
I have an aunt Lois who tells the best stories and who always acts glad to see me, like I am somebody special. I have a great-aunt Jennie who writes me letters from Arizona full of great stories. I have aunts named Beth and Kathy who love me even though they think I am weird.
I have an uncle Earl who served as a medic in Vietnam. Last time I saw him, he asked if I would talk my parents into letting him be buried in our plot and if I would say something nice at his funeral. It was an odd conversation. I have an uncle Bill who sings “Beulah Land” prettier than anybody else.
Great post. 😉
Hi Catie. You are very lucky to be that close to that many uncles and aunts.
Your uncle the Vietnam vet must trust you a great deal to have that conversation with you. Vietnam Veterans (I’m not one) seem to have a universal high regard for the medics that served there. If you ever sense that it’s OK to ask you might want to ask him if there is anything he would like to say about his time in Vietnam. If he does wish to tell you anything record his thoughts for future generations of your family. He is a unique person that was part of a segment of our history that is hard to understand so I would say that his thoughts would be very valuable to youngsters.
Lovely post, Holmes. Thanks for letting us meet Uncle Ricardo and Aunt Lily. Sounds like a lovely childhood.
Thank You Texanne. You must have at least one good aunt/uncle story. Do tell us.
Nowadays people say, “I love you” all the time. I think it’s a post 9-11 thing, kind of like a good-luck saying. But when I was a kid, “I love you” was something we did, not something we said. Saying it might have been nice, too. Or hearing it.
Most of my father’s family was a dead loss as far as I was concerned. The most interesting one was Uncle Bud, the crooked cop. He always had nicer cars, a nicer house, and better boats than we did, and he was charming and funny, but he’d also cheat you blind if you didn’t fight back. The oddest one was Uncle J.P. Dour, superior, and judgmental, he could suck the fun out of anything. He drove a Nash Metro even though he stood well over six feet and must have weighed 250 pounds.
Then there was Uncle Jurld, and he was one of Dad’s absolute best friends. He and his wife, Avelyn were my favorites. Jurld was crippled from polio and from a lot of surgeries after the polio, so he never did make a lot of money, though he kept trying. For a long time, he worked making drums. Not wheels, musical instruments. It’s a kind of carpentry. He was the first person I ever knew to make a barbecue cooker out of an oil drum. Funny looking thing, but he used it to turn out wonderful food. Even trash fish, like kingfish, tasted great when he cooked it. He and Avelyn had no children, so they poured all the love they’d have given their own kids into me and my siblings. He taught me how to play 42 and tried to teach me to play canasta, and when I couldn’t get the hang of that, he played old maid with me. Later on, he always knew where I could buy a car for cheap, and he always helped Dad get them going. He and Dad taught me how to make a zip gun and a pipe bomb, how to build a unicycle, how to rig a boat, and how to have fun with the local radar installation. I miss both of them something awful, but I’m glad they’re together again. Heaven probably needs a few pranks now and again, if nothing else, to counteract the gloomy presence of Uncle J.P.
Hi Texanne. Jurld sounds like a handy uncle to have. A girl never knows when she will need to whip up a pipe bomb or two. My uncles were sadly reluctant to teach me about bombs. I had to learn from outside the family. Like sex it’s always better to learn about bombs from reliable family members. It minimizes the chance of an accident.
Thanks for your memories, Holmes, which triggered many of my own.
I, too, could write an entire column on several special aunts and uncles who made a difference in my life.
Seriously, thanks. I’ve spent half an hour thinking about them. Special, happy memory stroll.
Hi Gloria. Go grab a suitable niece or nephew and make a new memory. If you haven’t any contact Piper for instructions on how to ship me home made cookies. I would hate for that part of you to go unsatisfied.
Hmm. I need to start a new Bayard and Holmes free service….Surrogate Adoring Nephew rental service. No charge for our readers.