Reasons to be Grateful
As a child, Thanksgiving was a holiday to gather aunts, uncles, and cousins. We assembled around Turkey, Television Screens, and Turnip Greens (Bleh!) to be family. Each person played a different part in our family. Some were father and mother figures. Others were friends, still others were just folks who came for the Mississippi Mud Cake and left. Like most families, every person was different, and each person played a different part in family. We were thankful to be together.
As we draw closer to this year’s Thanksgiving, I’ve been thinking a lot about those past family gatherings. Last weekend, Kelly and I flew to Alexandria, Virginia to be with her side of the family. We held a memorial service for her Aunt Georgina Parks, an aunt by marriage who died at a very young 65. She and her husband Roger had no biological children of their own, so Kelly and her sister and cousins were her kids. After a service at First Baptist Alexandria, the family received friends on a paddleboat on the Potomac River. We shared stories, viewed slides, and talked about family today. Like the aunts I grew up with, “George” turned aunt into a verb. She was more than an adjective or a title; she practiced aunting. She assembled keepsake boxes for her nieces and nephews. She introduced us to Dove Bars and made sure that we drank plenty of water. She lived her faith in Christ by caring for her aging parents in their home for 14 years. She loved her husband faithfully through marriage for 43 years.
In their book, Aunting: Cultural Practices that Sustain Family and Community Life, Laura Ellingson and Patricia Sotirin write,
“Aunting is a practice, something we can do, not just a role, that some people are assigned within kin networks. Aunting is a communicative practice that enlarges the way that we thinking about doing family. They are expressed in a form of a variety of behaviors: mentoring, listening, nurturing, challenging, distancing… Aunting helps fill in many of the cracks and fissures that inevitably occur in everybody’s lives. Aunting reminds us to stretch our love and caring, our time and financial contributions to not just those immediately genetically linked to us, but to stretch forth to the family of humankind.”
No matter who’s under your roof this season, take time to aunt them. In the end, you are remembered not for what they called you but how you gave them a reason to be grateful.