Being 'Auntie' But Longing For 'Mommy' at the Holidays
One of my nieces and I love eggnog lattes. Every November we try to beat the other to a text message announcing the good news that the eggnog latte has made its long-awaited holiday return and is now, for a limited time, available in our neighborhood coffee shops.
Holiday traditions like this keep my Auntie motor purring. And while I cherish them, when chestnuts are roasting on an open fire and the Salvation Army bells resound in shopping centers, a pang of sadness tugs at my heart.
I’m an Auntie who doesn’t have children and it wasn’t for lack of trying.
When an Auntie doesn’t have children
For years my husband and I battled unexplained infertility and for the sake of my sanity, we eventually made the difficult decision to embrace life as a family of two. With that choice, dreams of frantically wrapping gifts on Christmas Eve, taking holiday family photos in color-coordinated outfits and piling our kids in the car to chop down the perfect Christmas tree ended.
Growing up, I anticipated with immense pride continuing the kinds of family traditions my Mom established for my twin sister and me with my own children. “mommy” is probably something I will never be, but I am a lucky girl regardless, because I am an Auntie.
Aunties are blessed with the remarkable opportunity to make a significant difference in the lives of children, no matter if moms themselves or otherwise.
Aunties make a difference
Evidence of this came to me personally when my niece, Angela, posted the following on my Facebook page: “Only an aunt can hug like a mommy, keep secrets like a sister, and love like a friend.”
Over the years, I’ve hugged, wiped tears, loved and kept confidences. The memories of those profound moments I’ve tucked away in my heart and have deemed my Mason jar moments.
I coined the phrase late one Saturday evening as I headed upstairs to bed. The house was quiet. The hum of the heater echoed in the staircase dimly lit by a small lamp on a wooden table. A framed collage of pictures of my husband and me rested on the steps to remind me to replace the glass that had broken. I paused on my way up to bed, picked up the collage and gazed at the people in the pictures taken 23 years ago. That pause became a thoroughfare for nostalgia punctuated by sadness when I suddenly realized I wasn’t fully present to those moments when I was living them.
Life’s front porch
At barely 20 years old, I didn’t have the wisdom to know how precious those moments were at the time they were captured in photos. I wish I had had the insight to linger on life’s front porch and rock long enough to notice what I call “life’s fireflies” - moments you should chase with the wind at your back, capture in Mason jars and marvel at their twinkling.
In O Magazine, Oprah writes a column titled “What I Know For Sure.” The first time I came across it, it made me take pause. What do I know for sure? What do I REALLY know for sure?
My list is evolutionary and, more often than not, I find my mind wanders to the things I still don’t know or understand - but one thing I do know for sure is that I am blessed to be an Auntie.
Mason jar moments
One of the ways I’ve combated the pain of not having children is by making the conscious decision to suit up and star in the role God gave me as Aunt Steph to 39 nieces and nephews.
As another holiday season ushers in, look for ways you can embrace the beloved role of Auntie. Mommies and daddies usually could use some elves this time of the year. Offer to take the kids for a night and bake cookies, decorate your trees or watch holiday classic movies. I started an annual scavenger hunt that has become the favorite family event of the year.
Get creative and, while you’re at it, get out those Mason jars, capture the precious moments and then marvel at how they twinkle. They can go a long way to brighten up those dark corners that long for children of our own this time of year.
Stephanie Baffone, LPCMH, NCC is an expert on love & loss.
Published: November 16, 2010