• Jun 5 2009 12:00AM Church Behavior By Auntie Cadra

    I am fortunate and grateful that 2 of my 3 siblings, with their families,are not only still local to me, but we all still attend the church that our parents raised us at. As with all smaller churches, just a few share all the work, and that would include my brother, sister, mother, and myself.

    Bella & Lizzie are old enough now that they seize any opportunity to "be cute" but are still learning how to use "quiet voices" in church. As they are the only one ones in the congregation right now, they are loved by everyone and the girls don't mind running up to anyone they know.

    It is not unusual for Lizzie, the more vocal and younger of the two, to call out "all done!" when the minister pauses during his sermon. He's the type of guy who likes to speak for at least 45 minutes and solicit "amens" from his audience.

    Bella is totally into movies and TV. My brother & sister in law have tried repeatedly to tell her that we don't watch movies at church. Our pastor has taken to using his new toy: a laptop, which he plugs into the protector & he uses slides during his sermons now. Bella loves sitting through church now, but wonders "no car movie? no Elmo?" and, the day that a house fly landed on the wall, yelled out "DADDY ITS A BUG! BUG ON THE MOVIE!"

    Last week I was leading out in the worship service at the pulpit and Lizzie was particularly antsy. (She's 20 months old.) I had just announced the number of the opening song when my sister carried Lizzie back into the sanctuary from the Mother's Room. They were half way down the center isle when Lizzie turned, saw Bella and my sister-in-law sitting across the way, and Lizzie yelled out "Ewwww, BUTT!" That's what she says when she wants her diaper changed.

    Bella, always the agreeable one to her cousin, yelled back "dirty, Lizzie?"

    Lizzie yelled back "ewwwww butt ewww Mama!"

    I had all I could do to keep a straight face and start singing. My poor mother, whom the girls call Memere, was playing the piano and just about lost it. Several other members couldn't help but dissolve into fits of giggles while my 6 mo-pregnant sister was desperate to find a hole to fall into!

  • Jun 2 2009 12:00AM I'm One of "Those" By sbaffone

    Oh, Lord, I realized today- I am one of those people. The annoying "dog lady" and the proverbial aunt without children. Both clubs I generally thought it necessary to be a certifiable weird-do and or social outcast in order to gain access and most definitely people for whom we should feel sorry. No offense meant, believe me. Ugh, maybe I shouldn't put that into print to live in perpetuity but its my truth and that is what I am all about these days-staying rooted in my truth-the good, bad and the ugly. Anyway, I never wanted to be a part of either club and yet here I am-feeling a lot like the president of both, appointed to a position for which I never campaigned. Bella is hangin' in but that's about it right now. See, I am reporting on my dog.

    When I was growing up, we lived in one of the most idyllic neighborhoods- something right out of Dennis the Menace. My childhood friends and I would produce plays, variety shows (I always sang), go Christmas Caroling, organized fairs for MS and sled down the hills out back, both on snow sleds and in the spring when the grass finally poked its head out, on big cardboard refrigerator boxes (much to our parents dismay!). Taught to look out for the lonely and elderly, one of our favorite past times, especially in the spring was visiting dear ol' Mrs. Reynolds, who lived in the original farmhouse in our neighborhood, formerly known as Bartram's Orchard. We'd trek our way up the small hill, cross the stream and climb up the steps of her porch that looked just like the one on Walton's Farm. She smile big, open the door, let us in and after offering us cookies, lemonade or whatever the appropriate seasonal beverage, she'd often take us out to her garden and proudly show off her rhubarb, which she used in the most delicious, farm-fresh rhubarb pies. Anyway, even back then as a child, I remember feeling so sorry for her. I knew from a young age that I never wanted to end up like that and while I am hardly lonely or elderly (thank God!) I realize I am that person without children, the one people sometimes whisper about because they can't quite figure out how I am "so good with children" but don't have any of my own.

    In an effort to identify the elephant in the living room, the best strategy I use is to simply put it all out there right up front. When the time seems appropriate, I have learned to say, I don't have children and that's not by choice. We went through years of infertility and it just didn't work.

    The good news however, is that I am an aunt and I while I might not necessarily want to belong to the "women without children" club-I love being an aunt-Aunt Steph to 38 (+ 2 Godchildren). I love them, deeply and profoundly and am pretty sure they love me too. I love them so much I've considered posting publicly what is so wonderful and magical about each one of them but thought it better since the case could surely be made it a pure act of self-indulgence and super boring to anyone not family, so I'll reserve that for another more appropriate forum.

    In the meantime, tonight I chose to revel in the joy of their lives-the exuberance, hilarity, and pure love I know because of them. There is not a time I allow to pass without shouting out, "I love you!", as they pull out of my driveway or after dropping them off from a "playdate" or sleepover. They are precious gifts not exclusive to their parents. While I would love to resign my membership to "women without children" and "weirdo-dog lady", I am a proud, card-carrying member of the aunt club and that I would campaign to be president for any day of the week! The picture is from our Christmas Scavenger Hunt, a holiday tradition I LOVE to design and host. As one of my nieces says, "Its my second favorite day of the year, Aunt Steph!" Her birthday is her first.

    To what "clubs" do you belong? Which ones do you like and or would prefer not to be affiliated or even more so, didn't expect you would ever be a part of? For me, my life has been so much these days about making peace with memberships to clubs I don't like (childless women, daughter without a Mom now, Forty-year olds) and finding the redemptive value in what those clubs actually might have to offer. That's why I am writing a memoir about this very topic.