The Aunties are there when you need them. And every family needs them. The nickname came about during one of the worst weekends of our lives.
Whenever a major event occurred in my sister-in-laws family, her mother and her mother’s sisters swooped in and handled it. Diligently, happily and tirelessly, they would take care of everyone during a family crisis, or a celebration. They washed dishes, served meals, did laundry and made beds. They swept floors, answered doors and did errands. They did things we younger women didn’t even know needed doing. They had been doing it for decades, but it was the weekend of my brother’s memorial that made us take note.
My sister-in law Shari, Pamela (who was the wife of my brother’s best friend) and myself–we did the best we could. But we and the rest of our generation were grief-stricken. Most of us were in a mental fog throughout the weekend and rotely moved from one task to the next with no good idea of what was coming next. All the events happened, people came and went, everyone pitched in, there was food and drink and places to sleep. And then it was over. And it got quiet. And we wondered how it all happened, or even what had happened.
The three of us were sitting in the kitchen when Aunt Micky walked in. She gave us a quick update since she was getting ready to leave. “The beds are all clean, there is one last load of towels in the dryer. Aunt Sue is with Gerry and she will stay with her through tomorrow night when the caregiver arrives.”
Shari, Pamela and I looked at each other. The Aunties. The Aunties were the ones that took care of the younger generation that had not been through some of the big moments of life and weren’t quite prepared to handle both the emotions and the logistics simultaneously. The Aunties quietly passed on their strength and knowledge so the next generation would know what to do. We decided right then that we would be the Aunties.
We laughed and we cried as we pictured ourselves in this emerging role. We had six adult children between us that would all need Aunties. We may not have grown up as sisters, but we were sisters now. And Aunties we would be.
“We have to be able to grow up. Our wrinkles are our medals of the passage of time. They are what we have been through and who we want to be.” -Lauren Hutton
The Aunties Recipe When people gather for a rite of passage, whether filled with joy or sadness, these tips are the recipe to provide the strength of the Aunties. The goal is to allow the younger generation the ability to grieve or celebrate while surrounded by the comfort of others but not be stressed by the details involved with multiple days of hosting.
*Be sensitive to the host. Ask once if it is okay to take over and get things done. With approval, move ahead and don’t look back! *Give friends and family specific tasks to help, like some of the shopping or cooking or tasks listed below. *Keep friends and family updated and involved. Answer the phone. Give information. Return calls. *Check the home and outside entry where visitors will be gathering with a discerning eye, tidying up and adding flowers or plants where needed. *Buy or ask someone to buy what might be needed like snack food, paper napkins, plastic cups, etc. It is okay if it isn’t used. *Stock up on wine, beer, soft drinks and any other beverages that you think will be needed. This is a good place to involve friends. Ask them to bring things! *Gather basic recipes that anyone can cook for a crowd. When out-of-town friends offer to help, give them a recipe and ask them to buy the ingredients and/or help make the dish! *Ask local friends to drop off prepared food. Be specific as to what is needed. *If someone else is cooking, help them find where everything is located in the kitchen. *Keep gathering dirty laundry and doing the wash so it doesn’t pile up. *Bring in the mail each day. *Take out the trash and find out what day the bins go out if needed. *Answer the door and phone and take messages. *Keep a list of gifts, flowers or assistance that were received. *Don’t be afraid to talk about the situation. And don’t be afraid to be quiet. *Hug everyone. Often. *Take time for yourself so you can take care of others with love.