Last week I received a box in the mail with a postmark from New Orleans. I didn't recognize the return address, so of course I was suspicious that it was a bomb sent by anti-choice zealots. Why I would be a target for them given my utter lack of influence is beyond me, but they are not necessarily a logical bunch. Also, it's kind of egomanical for me to think they would care enough to try and eliminate me. I stripped the tape and opened the box with caution. As I did so, I remembered that my aunt had recently been to New Orleans on vacation, so I ripped through the packaging with abandon. I was fairly certain she would not have anyone send me a bomb.
Partly wrong - her gift was, as they said on the street about ten years ago, the bomb. It was a handmade headband/tiara in super funky colors with a cocktail glass on top. (Which given my teetotaler status, is ironically hilarious.)
I put it on and pranced around my apartment. When Marcus, my nephew, was born in April 2009, I thought a lot about the aunt I wanted to be. My aunt was my role model. She was admirable in every way: she lived in Chicago, painted, and taught kids with behavior and learning disabilities in a low income community. Aunt Ivy (as she was known to me initially) also went to Haiti and was a VISTA in Miami, working with the Haitian community. In the early 1980s, she went to Israel on an archeological dig and brought some pottery fragments back for me (legally, I assume). On one of her trips, she stored her belongings in the basement of my parents' house, including his amazing rattan chair that I loved sitting on because it reminded me of a throne. (Unfortunately, they were ruined in a flood.)
Aunt Ivy always planned cool things for me and my sister to do. She took us to museums and cultural events. When she got married, she changed her name to Chaya and then we she had my cousin Rebecca, she made sure that Dana and I were included in the neat things she did with Rebecca. She found neat little knickknacks in her jaunts around the city and suburbs and saved them for us. Now that she's into the internet, she's my newest blog reader! There was never a time when I did not feel loved and highly valued by my aunt.
It made perfect sense for me to aspire to be the kind of aunt to Marcus (and now also to my brother-in-law's daughter). Wacky and fun, but serious about the world, too. When I put the headband/tiara on my head last week, I felt like I was taking on more than an important title; I adopted her legacy. I'm so grateful to my aunt for everything. I can only hope that my nephew and niece will look up to me the way I do to my creative Aunt Chaya.