Why do the words of a child fall so heavily upon the heart of an adult? From what place comes that designation of importance? When last we visited his family, I was presented these folded pieces of paper. They appeared quite unremarkable on their face; simply wide ruled filler paper pulled from the fingers of a school binder or slid carelessly from a plastic sleeve, then folded into an asymmetrical geometry and shoved into the pockets of two young girls.
It was what hollered happy and plain from within those folds that has stayed with me all of these months later. These little girls belong to my fiance’s brother. My soon-to-be brother-in-law. My soon-to-be nieces. But that’s just a name that comes with a marriage license. These small things, they have been alive for 9 and 12 years. And up until a small handful of those years ago, they had an aunt, and she wasn’t me. Divorce is a concept that tastes different in the heart of a child, yet, I don’t know that taste. My parents held on until I was applying to colleges.
I can only draw upon one memory.
I was young, maybe 7, give or take (timelines in childhood are so plastic and subjective). My Uncle Jimmy had a Mary. Aunt Mary. To this day I couldn’t tell you if they were in fact married, only that I had an uncle, and he lived with a lady who had dark, curly hair and was very slight. She made me hotdogs in a frying pan, and sometimes she swam with me in the blue pool behind a fence in the apartment complex they called home. Then one day there was no more Aunt Mary. Jimmy had a Mary, and then he didn’t. I don’t remember feeling any one way or the other over the news. Acceptance, maybe. But nothing jarring. And then, one day some time in the future, maybe two months, maybe two years (again, childhood and timelines) Uncle Jimmy had a Cathy. My Aunt Cathy. Right? It seemed so. The nice lady who lives with Uncle Jimmy now is Aunt. Aunt Cathy. And so it was.
Some years later, when I was more a woman, less a child (stop laughing), Aunt Cathy told me a funny story. She said that I was the first to call her Aunt Cathy, rather than just Cathy. Of course I called her Aunt Cathy. It quite frankly never occurred to me to practice otherwise. But she expressed how much it meant to her, that she’d carried it with her for all of the years after.
I never really walked a circle around and sized up the monument of her words. Until now.
Until those two little things, one blonde, one brunette, all eyelashes and honesty, they did reach down into the lint depths of their pockets, and issued me the sweetest notes a #2 pencil ever collaborated upon.
I’m no stranger to clashes with families. I was prepared for this relationship to be more of the same. I’d have been saddened, but seasoned, and ultimately unfazed, if his siblings and parents expressed a distaste towards me; me with my sass mouth, a girl with far too many faded tattoos and far too little religion.
But the small ones with their heartfelt scrawl. I’d honestly feared their rejection – a rejection I felt sure was coming. And yet it didn’t.
Why so precious? There are some things I’ll never understand. I’ll put this in that box, along with their notes, to be retrieved one day when they themselves are more women, less children, and I’ll tell them about that time they said to me,
“Dear Aunt Dayna, we missed you. We are glad you and our uncle are getting married.”