Next weekend, my nephew, Dylan, will celebrate his 6th birthday. I'll be at the birthday party, along with Dylan's sisters (my nieces), Katie and Lizzy, eating cake and ice cream, admiring all Dylan's gifts, and hearing stories about the first days of the new school year.
My niece Samantha, will have her 6th birthday the same day I turn 36 (October 24), and though I won't be at her party -- she lives in Florida -- I did get to spend a few days with her and her brother Dustin, my nephew, when they visited Indiana in July. We played games, looked at pictures, ate popsicles, and just enjoyed being together.
This past weekend, my brother, Gerry, and his wife, Carla, and their children, Zach, 13, and Erin, 9, visited from Wisconsin. I spent the past couple of days with Zach and Erin reading books, kicking soccer balls, playing with my dog, watching movies, taking day trips, and eating lots of snacks.
There's nothing like being an aunt. Especially as a single woman with no children, I find untold joy in being able to be a part of my brothers' children's lives. Maybe this role of aunt is a calling in itself -- not exactly like being a wife and mother, but significant all the same.
I think that's why a short piece on NPR's "Morning Edition" last Friday really caught my attention. In a segment called "StoryCorps: Recording America" where average Americans interview each other about people, places and events that represent part of the American life, a woman and her husband talked about her Aunt Mef and the significant role she played in her life.
The woman recalled a letter she had written to Aunt Mef, ending with the add-on idea: "But then, what are aunts for?" Mef's response came almost immediately -- and it cited Mrs. Miniver, the classic novel by Jan Struther. "Here's what I think aunts are for," she wrote. "Aunts are to be a pattern and example to all aunts, to be a delight to boys and girls, and a comfort to their parents -- and to show that at least one daughter in any generation, in every generation, ought to remain unmarried, and raise the profession of auntship to a fine art. Thank you, Karen, for reminding me of this. I shall have to keep trying again and again to live up to it."
Whether I remain unmarried is yet to be told, but I certainly do hope that I can be the kind of aunt that Mef wanted to be.