By Matt Gordon
It happens to all of us. We are born. Then we begin forging relationships. We marry—or we don’t. Get a job—or we don’t. Then, at some point in our third decade on earth, we get a secret family member. You know the story, a tale as old as time: The old boy-meets-girl-and-they-have-baby-together-that-they-give-away-due-to-cultural-pressures-but-then-get-married-and-have-another-baby-that-they-raise-who-has-a-son-who-is-me-and-then-much-later-in-life-my-mother-finds-out-that-she-has-a-secret-sister-who-is-my-aunt. You know the one, right?
Well, finally cashed in on that one.
This week my mother went and met her secret sister, my estranged—or am I the “estranged” one?—Aunt P. I’ve never had an Aunt P. In fact, I’ve never had an Aunt period. So this is all very new and exciting, and has me thinking all sorts of things.
Like, I wonder when I should meet Aunt P? Is it on my terms or on hers? She is the Aunt, after all, so I sort of feel like this one is on her. Maybe she could take me to a movie or horseback riding or to an amusement park? I don’t know—again, this is my first Aunting. In films, though, it seems like the Aunt should probably be pretty cool and carefree and do fun things with me at her expense.
Speaking of things done at her expense, and, believe me, I hate to bring up things undone at a tender time like this, but I’ve noticed with my own children that their aunts are pretty diligent givers of presents. Birthdays, Christmas, Easter, even Just-Because trinkets are regularly arriving at our doorstep. I am far too unselfish to rob her this wondrous rite of aunthood. Add things like graduations to the mix and, by my count, my Secret Aunt P owes me somewhere from 80-100 gifts of material affection to make up for missed occasions. It would be unfair of me to expect all of this at once, naturally. I’ll give her the year to make good. Hopefully, we can get a couple tickets to a big ballgame soon, meet up, and get that gift clock a-running.
As for what we’ll talk about when that sweet day comes? Well, that, fortunately, is easy. Rather than having just a semi-annual gap in relations, as is the case with most aunt-nephew relationships, we have nearly four decades of discussable topics. I have a few icebreakers at-the-ready, to help take the burden of relationship off my dear Auntie’s surely sagged shoulders, what with all the emotions of getting to meet her golden-boy nephew and all, it’s the least I could do. Here are a few of those:
“What was your estrangement like?”
“Chernobyl, your thoughts?”
“How about that Steve Jobs and his fancy I-Pod?”
“By and by, can you believe this Lewinsky business?”
“Did you get pretty weird as Y2K approached? Do anything scandalous?”
“Other than me and mine, got any other juicy secret family members?”
“So . . . what have you been up to since the early 1980’s?”
The second conversation might be a pretty big letdown, but boy, that first one? It should be a real doozy.
The moment before that conversation happens, though, that could be a sticking point. Like do I run, leap into my beloved Aunt’s arms, and allow her to twirl me? Do I stand stolid and let her shower my cheeks with kisses and pinches? Does she hold me like a babe? Do we say a cordial hello and just shake hands? I don’t want to deprive her the joys of knowing me as a sweet suckling babe, but also I don’t want to make things weird. Yeah, now that I think about it . . . the hoist-and-twirl is probably the safest bet.
I imagine we’ll be pretty much inseparable best friends. Yes, we’ll probably match clothes some—as long as she is willing to wear the clothes I like. It won’t be long till she moves to my town and provides free childcare for us, and does other common Auntish things, like cook my meals and mow my grass. It is going to be some kind of relationship—that’s for sure.
When young siblings play at killing each other, they badger one another to utter a phrase to alleviate the pain and threat of death. “SAY UNCLE,” comes the cruel refrain between heaving, violent breaths. “Uncle” ends the fighting.
Well, I don’t know much about that. But here, I’ll go ahead and say something else, something that, rather than ending the pain, begins the pleasure—the joys of relationship renewed. The world can say “uncle” all it wants. But with all the enthusiasm of an estranged nephew, I’m calling, “Auntie.”
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