It think, much to our parent’s chagrin, that it takes quite a number of years and life experience to fully appreciate the people who helped raise us. To a kid the world changes so much so quickly. And if life isn’t tranquil and charming like the sitcoms we watched on T.V. then life can also be overwhelming, confusing and sometimes frightening. So it stand to reason that we couldn’t possibly know how much the people in our lives as kids meant to us until we’ve had the time to process everything that has happened and to come to terms with the mess of our lives.
Following this logic and as a part of me trying to set up some sort of order to my life I’ve begun to branch out in my appreciation and processing of those who helped raise me. I’ve worked a lot, a lot, a lot over the years to work through the many and profound issues surrounding my immediate parents, mom and dad. I’d like to think that while I still hold grudges and harbor some discontent over my childhood; I have also come a long, long way in reconciling my love for my parents with feelings of being let down by their hippy ways. One can not dwell too much on not actually having a legal first name because your parents failed to file the right paper work…or was it because they hired a coked out attorney. Either way not having a legal name or not knowing the real date of your birthday until you were seven aren’t reasons to dislike your parents. Neither is divorce, though unlike the birth date debacle this one takes longer to get over and a lot more time in therapy. But at the end of the day I’ve found that my love for my parents makes working on this stuff easier since I want to keep being invited home for the holidays and receiving chocolate bunnies on Easter (hint, hint). Plus having a well reasoned and processed analysis of the trauma your parents inflicted on you as a young person is great leverage for getting your way as an adult. “Mom, remember that time I fell off the stool and almost cracked my head open and you yelled at me because I could have broken the stool? Man, that still gets me to this day. I need a chocolate bunny to help me get over it.”
My dad moved out of our house when I was seven. My memories of that time are vague at best. Really, I don’t have many childhood memories before the age of 10 when my aunt Kathy took me to see the Little Mermaid at Newport Cinemas. It’s the first movie I remember seeing and to this day its one of my favorites.
Over the years it has become clearer and clearer to me the important role my Aunt played in raising me and my older brother. Besides always being the one adult willing to go see cartoons with me (a fact that remains to this day) she also took a lot of time out of her life to spend having fun with us. I like to think that this made my mom feel less anxious about the amount of time she couldn’t spend with us owing to her new status as a single mom.
My aunt used to get my brother and me memberships to the YMCA in downtown Spokane. She would take us swimming after work during the week. After swimming we’d get dinner at McDonalds or some place like that. This always made me feel so special! How many other kids got to go swimming on a school night and eat a Happy Meal? Ok, so the adult me knows that the Y’s pool was nasty and that McDonalds is disgusting. But the kid me only felt special.
My aunt was always the one who did little things for me and my brother. Things like buying us a funny little toy or taking us to a movie at the dollar theater. Seemingly simple and stupid to some but since we didn’t really get much in the way of material gains as kids the time she took to be with us and show love towards us meant the world to me. I like to think that it helped to fill a little of the nameless void left by my father when he departed.
My aunts efforts in being there for me and my brother also make me think of the role aunts and sisters can play in this crazy mixed up world of ours. My aunt Kathy has no kids of her own but she has a sister who at a time in her life was faced with the improbable task of raising two kids on her own. I know my aunt was mad at my dad for leaving and probably struggling to know the best way to support my mom. In my memory she did a wonderful job. She filled in little gaps in our family with apple pie, movies, swimming at the Y and trips to the video store.
So here’s to you aunt Kathy! I owe as much to you as to anyone in my life for helping me be who I am today – a big hearted over anxious hypochondriac with a propensity for self doubt and ridiculous taste in movies.
Filed under: family, Writings | Tagged: aunts, divorce, family, YMCA | 1 Comment »