Of all the nieces and nephews, I wasn’t the easiest to love.
I didn’t live near the rest of the cousins, but it was more than that, the way I held myself apart even as a child, the way I lived inside my head with a circle of imaginary friends and a secret language. I was ridiculously shy and attached to my mother’s hip. When I spoke, I was as awkward and muddled as I am today.
I wasn’t the easiest of the cousins to love. And yet.
And yet The Aunts never failed to love me in the very best ways — by being near me without pushing into my world. By giving me the greatest of gifts: stories.
There is the story of the picture taped to a wall in Aunt Vic’s spare room: Burt Reynolds on a bearskin rug in all his glory. How Aunt Laurie helped convince my mother I should have my ears pierced. The way Aunt Ginny never treated me like a child, silently empowering me. How Aunt Sue loved books alongside me.
My voice is eerily like theirs. So is my face — my smile and wrinkles and just-watch-me attitude.
I am not the easiest aunt to love. I am separated still by distance and emotion.
I hope my niece and nephew and their children take from me some little stories, of my foul language or terrible puns or how I learned to marry shyness with a just-watch-me attitude, and I hope they know I marvel over how fabulous they are.