I have grand-nieces. And a grand-nephew. They are, of course, amazing children. Funny, beautiful, smart and terribly entertaining (emphasis sometimes on the ‘terribly’ ). Last weekend they came for tea.
We sat down to the table, where plates of small peanut butter sandwiches and chocolate bread w/butter and slices of apples were ready. We had tea w/ milk and lumps of Demerara in our Peter Rabbit mugs (except for baby Noah, who uses the tiny cup). We stirred vigourously w/ our demitasse spoons (because they’re just the right size, and they have camels & elephants on the handles).
It was wonderful . And I kept thinking how much I loved my own great-aunts, the position I fill for Madison, Grace & Noah. Aunt Bonnie who taught me plants and cooking and left me so many of her cherished photos and heirlooms. Aunt Velma who taught me Yahtzee and how to make leftovers elegant and what a beautiful table looked like.
Aunt Ina who was always elegantly clad for work, and kept her house painfully clean. And then were the honorary aunts, like Tante Alma, with cookies in her house that fronted on the Presidential Square, where I came between laps of bicycling for hours.
These were my old ladies, as I called them. They cooked me my favourites — rhubarb cobbler and chicken & rice and cornbread and dark gingerbread — served them on china wreathed with flowers. Slipped me money when I started college. Bought me presents my first Christmas away from home. Wrote me letters when I was away, and generally loved me. Richly and with fierce female pride.
Now my 3 sisters and I are ‘the aunts,’ as my mother and her 3 sisters called my grandmother and her 4 sisters. As my father called his mother’s 4 sisters.
We are their elders. And I don’t think I’m ready…How will I know what stories are important? How will I do for Madison & Grace & Noah what Aunt Bonnie did for me? Is there a way to love so deeply that a child is somehow clad in love like armour, protected from the horrors that come into each of our fragile lives…? There must be, because Aunt Bonnie worked that miracle for me.
Somehow I have to learn this — find a way through the labryinth that is aging in this strange world we live in, and be there for these smaller ones. It may be time to put my inner elder to work…