I was the first grandchild on both sides of my family, and for years, I had a whole slew of childless aunts and uncles. This can cut both ways—you can either be the annoying kid who won’t shut up, or you could be showered with attention from people who have not yet experienced the 24/7 of, say, playing with dolls or listening to your litany of facts gleaned from the World Book Encyclopedia.
My Aunt Kathy was (and is) an awesome aunt. Tall and blonde and leggy, she’d turn heads when we walked down to the store a few blocks away. She lived in Florida, which seemed incredibly glamorous to me. She was the perfect mix of fun and silly and cool. I’m saying as if all this stopped at one point. It didn’t, but it felt like it did.
She had a baby.
By then, I had two sisters. On some level, I must have known what was to come. In those days, in my family at least, mothers alone bore much of the responsibility of the raising of the kids. I must have sensed that Kelli’s arrival didn’t mean anything good for me. While it’s true that love is endless, time is not. However cute my first cousin was, with the little ringlets and all, she was cutting into some good Aunt Kathy time. I was six or seven when Aunt Kathy and I were sitting on the porch swing sometime post-baby, and I suggested that my mom watch Kelli so that she could “take a break from the kid.” (And presumably hang out with the mature lower-elementary school crowd: me.) “Why would I want to take a break from her?” my aunt said, smiling, love-drunk with her baby. “I love her!” God knows what World Book fact I said in response.
I’d almost forgotten this whole episode, but this past weekend, Krissy came to visit with her three-month-old son. And I have to say, Caleb was acting a little, um, off.
“Why is Nick crying?” Caleb asked. “Is he hungry again?” And in anticipation of our driving together to Richmond, an hour away, he said more than once: “I really HOPE Nick doesn’t CRY in the car the WHOLE WAY THERE.” Caleb brought ear plugs.
I mean, Caleb was nice to Nick for the most part, but however I diced it, I could still see that this was a loss for him. Last time Krissy was here, she cuddled with him on their side of a booth at a restaurant and taught him how to extract the meat from crab legs. This time, she was functioning one-handed and went to bed early.
There really isn’t anything to say to Caleb at this point. He has his feelings and I have to respect that. But it gets better, I want him to know: These days, I love Kelli, too. We spent the Friday after Thanksgiving this year at her house where she hosted the whole extended family, and I got to know her sons. She’s a terrific woman. These aunt-stealers, they turn into allies, into extra repositories for your memories, into pals.
Confidential to H., C., and J.: Get well soon! Sending mad love!