Alice Collins PrimeTime column: Aunts are very special people to nieces, nephews
Did you have a favorite aunt? I did, as did most of my friends, and many of the aunts were named Mary.
I had an Aunt Mary whose visits were a special joy to me and my brother. She was my father's sister, and since my mother was an only child, we often had a routine where I would say she was my favorite aunt and she would say I was her favorite niece. Then we laughed and pointed out that she was my only aunt and I her only niece. She taught sixth grade for 45 years and came from Winona, Minn., to visit us in northern Illinois for every school holiday and for at least two weeks in the summer.
She loved to play cards and read stories, which made her a dream visitor for kids of any age. My mother thought she could have been more generous about letting us kids win a game more often, but she thought we needed to learn things right - and, of course, we soon succeeded in winning once in a while, which was a great triumph.
As I have observed two of our granddaughters becoming beloved aunts to their sibling's children, I have decided that one reason an aunt is so special is that she is someone who loves you and is NOT your mother.
Aunts can afford to be less strict because they don't have to deal with the child's daily routine and behavior. Like grandparents, they have the advantage that when things get out of hand, they can give the kid back to Mother.
Our grandson Josh and his family lived in the Twin Cities, and his sister, Anna, lived there, too, for a number of years. It was a great chance for the kids to become devoted to Aunt Anna. It was a sad change when the kids and their family moved to Portland, Ore., and now Aunt Anna has moved to the Washington, D.C., area so they are a wide country apart.
Our daughter's grandchildren have been lucky that their beloved Auntie Carmen, who lived several hours away, has recently not only moved to the town where they live, but is a short walk away from their house and where they go to school. I hope she is prepared for frequent visits, as they have already appeared at her door soon after the school day ended.
Living in the same town made us an integral part of our son's three children's lives. That has been a special joy and was made doubly important by the fact that he died at age 46 when the boys were in college and Anna was only a teen. We enjoyed attending speech contests, plays and musicals throughout their school days. This also made our daughter Mary, their aunt, a very important part of their growing up years.
I have a number of nieces and a nephew, but they did not lived near us until, tragically, my brother died young, and his wife only a few years later, so their younger daughter, a young teenager, came from Connecticut to live with us. This provided a whole new kind of bond. We refer to her as our third kid, even though she was a year older than our son.
We saw quite a lot of my younger sister's children when our parents were alive and we made frequent trips to Illinois. Those girls are grown now and scattered, including one who lives in France, so our contact is mostly limited to mail and e-mail. Thank goodness for e-mail!
Families are different, and sometimes there is friction, but fortunately that has not happened in our extended family. Someone recently commented to me, "Your family sure keeps in touch with one another a lot." I am truly grateful for that!