My extended family is incredibly large. I have something like 20 aunts and uncles on each one of my parent’s sides of the family. That includes “real” aunts and uncles and the ones who married into one of these crazy families. I remember when we were planning, or should I say, my wife was planning our wedding, and we were figuring out how many people and we needed to have 150 spots just for family. While it adds to the expense of those events it makes it all worth it when my Mom gets to be with her sisters and we get to watch Uncle Chucky dance.
I wanted to just highlight one of those people though. See, there is one that stands out above all of them. My brother’s God Mother. Her name is Kathy, or Crazy Auntie Kathy. My brother and I are 2 years apart so we were really close growing up. With it just being us, whenever the parents needed help or just needed us kids to get the hell away from them we got to hang with Auntie Kathy. She lived in an apartment on Blue Hills (a small mountain with hiking and skiing) with a HUGE pool. We were kids so everything was big to us, but I remember it had a 14 foot deep section and my brother and I would spend hours throwing stuff to the bottom and trying to pick it up before running out of air. We would get to eat Domino’s pizza and watch movies and sleep over her apartment.
My aunt was SO cool to us back then. She was single, no kids, and really had no reason to hang with us two idiots, but she did. She let us into her life, introduced us to a couple boyfriends. She taught us all the cool tricks too, like driving with her knees, not watching the road, and singing Wind Beneath my Wings by Bette Midler or The Living Years by Mike and the Mechanics at FULL volume. I’m surprised her voice didn’t shatter a few car windows.
She FINALLY grew up and had a family of her own. Doug and I grew up (physically, not mentally) and we have lives of our own. But, Kathy is still such a big part of our lives. Of course we have all the big stuff together, weddings, and those type of big memories, but way more important are the little memories. She taught me lessons I use with the kids all the time. The little memories I share with my kids are very much inspired by my time with Crazy Auntie Kathy. She never cared about being seen as silly. I’m sure she snuck in a few life lessons while she was almost killing us in a car not paying attention to the road. But for us it was just to have a few laughs while we were spending time together. Something I do with the kids ALL the time. It’s funny, because while I try to find many of those silly moments wherever I can, lots of them come from when we are just driving somewhere. But, I pay attention to the road lots more than I remember Kathy doing!
With a big family you have to make those decisions about birthday parties and who to invite. If we invite this family, we have to invite this family, if we invite these uncles, we have to invite these aunts and so on, but Kathy is always on the guest list. She puts in the time, and has for many, many years. She was at lots and lots of games my brother and I played growing up and she does the same with the recitals and cheer performances for my kids now. When the tickets go on sale for a performance one of my kids is in we just assume that Kathy is coming. My kids saw from a very early age that this person is going to be an important part of their life. My kids know of all her stories because she is one of my favorite people to talk about.
I give her lots of grief. I make jokes about her crazy hair, or something silly she did, or I talk about the time she left me home and took my brother, her God Son, to the Baseball Hall of Fame and maxed out a credit card on him. I never really tell her about how important she is. Although, I think she knows it by now. She’s not just an Aunt, she’s part of my story, and she’s part of my tribe.
I hope everyone has an Auntie Kathy in their lives. Someone who puts you on their tribe before you know what a tribe is. As always if you do, remind them how important they are when you can. And if you don’t, just run up to strangers and scream “I’LL GET YOU MY PRETTY AND YOUR LITTLE DOG TOO” and if they laugh you know you have a friend for life.