My mum’s younger sister is, in one significant way, like me. We are both childless by circumstance. I know for sure that my aunt always wanted kids, but in a selfish way I’m glad she didn’t or I wouldn’t have had such an amazing childhood. She’d have been too busy with her own children and we would have had a different dynamic. I would have absolutely adored her kids, of course, like I do the rest of my cousins. My aunt and uncle were a handsome pair, so their children would have been gorgeous.
In Tamil, because she is my mother’s younger sister, I call her “Sinnamma” (it’s how I personally pronounce and spell it phonetically) and it means small mother. And she really is. She was the one who voluntarily insisted on staying overnight with me for what amounted to weeks of hospital stays when I was undergoing surgery in relation to my cancer. I’ve always felt bad about this as she never got a proper night’s sleep. We jokingly called her my night nurse. But in all seriousness, she was better than any nurse or doctor. Often the call bell wasn’t answered and I was so glad my aunt was there. She also helped advocate for me when things went wrong. It really helps when you have someone knowledgeable and protective of you, in your corner and the medical staff are aware of that.
When I was a teenager, I was so proud and excited when she picked me up from school in her sleek red car. Dad picking me up was embarrassing, but my aunt coming? That was cool. She was supposed to drive me back to her place to teach me chemistry, but actually she took every chance to pamper me (and my sis who didn’t wanna miss out) with high tea and a taste of my first alcoholic beverage (frozen lime margarita). She was my young, cool, gorgeous and also very intelligent aunt. I scored a 100% in chemistry soon after she taught me. I was so motivated, because she explained things so clearly and also because I wanted her to be proud of me. The other girls in class copied my answers and I beamed with pride over that.
Rewinding back to my childhood, she was so beautiful to me. I felt so ugly next to her and wondered why I couldn’t look like her. How could we be genetically related, but I be so ugly in contrast. Would it be like the ugly duckling and I’d transform into a swan as I got older? It was the greatest compliment if anyone thought I looked like her.
When I knew she was going to visit me I would wait for what seemed like hours, longingly by the window. My mum felt sorry for me so she resorted to not telling me and the visits became a nice surprise instead. I realise my mum was super generous this way. She appreciated all the relatives who loved me in my life and was never one to be possessive or jealous (now that’s unconditional love). She actually encouraged more visits and was proud of her sister. Later on my aunt got busy helping my uncle, the solicitor, with legal stuff. She was a supergirl, energetically doing a million things a day. But I missed her on my birthdays especially. She would sometimes drop in a while to give me a present. On my tenth birthday she gave me my first grown up watch, a Timex.
Rewinding even further back, on the day of her wedding, I was so worried hearing screams from her, coming from upstairs. It made me so upset. Why was my grandma and those ladies dressing up my aunt for the wedding, torturing her. I’m never ever getting married. My aunt can’t recall this of course, but I can imagine it must be painful with the heavy hairdo and veil. Probably some clips or pins were stuck into her painfully and my aunt can be dramatic. But she did look like a princess in her jewel pink sari and dreamy white veil. I looked very grumpy in her wedding pictures.
I was very worried when I heard she was going to London for her honeymoon. I didn’t quite understand what a honeymoon was and almost imagined she would never return and it was quite upsetting. I hated sharing my aunt with anyone. She definitely liked my uncle a lot though. She was always giggling around him and they looked at each other with those eyes. I was a very jealous, possessive kid. She asked me what I would like and I said snow. She laughed telling me it would melt. I told her to keep it in the fridge. I was 5.
I wish I could do more for her (she practically gave me the rings off her fingers when I asked to try them), but I don’t have much apart from my writing and this blog, so I thought I would wish my very young, vivacious aunt a happy birthday here.
My partner always reminds me how lucky I am to be in my family with my amazing parents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Not everyone is this fortunate and to many, their closest relative could be like a stranger they see only once a year. This fact is definitely not lost on me.
I hope she knows how my life would pale in comparison without her in it, and I wish in some small way she’s happy that I ended up being one of her bonus kids. Number 3 out of 11. Now, counting her grand nephews and nieces, a grand total of 18. With all the school kids she taught and inspired over the years, the number of lives she has impacted, is just exponential.
She and I are both in fact child full and blessed to be so.