I am a very proud mother today, but we’ll get to that in a bit. Suffice it to say, Ryan and I have been given a gift that we’ve been dreaming about for nearly a decade. Though it felt long overdue, the impact of the gift was not at all diminished over time. But…. I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s take it from the beginning. Let’s literally take it from the very beginning. (Well, from my beginning, anyways…)
On November 7th, 1979, I lazily made my way into the world. According to my mother, I was a 2 month overdue, 8lbs 12 oz baby with a healthy set of lungs and a full head of hair. Alongside my mother was her sister, my Aunt Darlene. (Known more commonly as Aunt Dar.) Aunt Dar was there to welcome me into the world. It turned out that this was the first of many of my life milestones that she transitioned me into.
Aunt Dar was there when I transitioned into my teenage years. As it turned out, my mother threw a surprise 13th birthday party for me at my Aunt Dar’s house. We had all gathered, from what I loosely remember, for a Halloween event. The part of this event that I remember best is that my birthday gift was a professional flute which I had pined over since the day my Aunt Vickie gave me my first beginner flute… but that’s another blog altogether. Music has shaped my life in some very powerful ways.
Aunt Dar was there for me as I graduated. I vaguely remember the summer of ’97 bringing a lot of support from family and friends via Hallmark cards and bank notes, but the gift I remember most is still next to me today. Aunt Dar made me the most beautiful quilt I have ever seen. She picked patterns of music notes and piano keys and stitched them together so eloquently that this particular blanket has been a centerpiece of my room decor since I received it. It may seem silly to have a security blankey as an adult, but frankly, I do. This blanket is the one of the few things that I have carried specifically with me from move to move, which was lucky, because I lost nearly everything I had amassed in a house fire at one point in my life. Had I not insisted on taking this blanket with me while I was staying at a friend’s house to be closer to college, I would’ve lost that, too. To this day, when I am frustrated with the world around me, I will take my blanket back to my bedroom and hid underneath of it. It has been with me longer than anything else I own at this point. (With the miraculous exception of my beginner flute. But again, that’s another blog for another day.)
The next major milestone in my life would be bringing a child of my own into the world, and Aunt Dar was there for that as well. Picking up on the fact that I lost my most cherished belongings in my mother’s house fire, Aunt Dar created a gift for me that, like my blankey, stood out as the most important baby shower gift I received. Indeed, this present still stands out in my mind as the best gift I have ever been given, short of my children. Aunt Dar, who happens to live just down the road from my father’s parents, collaborated with both sides of my family and created a memory book for me like no other. I’m sure she knew I had inherited my grandmother’s affinity for family photos. I cried immediately as I opened the first page. As I flipped through this beautiful book page by page, I saw that she not only replaced many of my lost memories with new photos, but she had found photos that I had never been privy to before. My parents had divorced when I was very young, and the pictures of them and their union were few and far between. Yet somehow, Aunt Dar had managed to get pictures of just such events, including not only their wedding photos, but also pictures from when they were young. She gave me the gift of photos of my cousins from each side of my family. I have looked through this album hundreds of times, and it is still just as meaningful as it was the first time I touched it. I adore it. Ryan and I would look through it together and day dream about what our bundle of joy would turn out to be like. I dreamed of holding him and dancing in the living room. Ryan was eager to see him play baseball and ride a bike. It’s funny how memories can create aspirations…
Again, on my wedding day, Aunt Dar had special plans to create something I could never forget. (For those of you doing timelines in your head, yes, I live out of order. Baby came before the marriage. It’s not an issue for us, and if it is for you, feel free to stop reading.) At my wedding reception, my Aunt Dar had put out quilt patches on each table, which matched our wedding colors. The guests from my wedding signed the patches and wrote words of encouragement to help us guide our married life. As if that was not special enough, she stitched the patches together and added beautiful iron-on photographs of the wedding day. She completed the amazing ensemble by adding a copy of the wedding program. This blanket adorns my bed and is only missing when my children steal it. (Which happens frequently, because my quilts are by far the warmest and most comfortable blankets in the house.)
Most recently, Aunt Dar was there to help with a milestone that Ryan and I shared with our oldest son, Jake. I can’t thank her enough for this gift, but I think Jake’s words say it best:
“I have been trying to ride a bike for years. Before Aunt Dar helped, I would usually just fall over. I wanted to quit trying, but when I went over to Aunt Dar’s, I decided to try again. I could ride a bike there. She taught me well. Aunt Dar let me borrow her bike and she showed me how to peddle and turn lightly, not hard. She’d yell, “peddle, peddle, peddle!” Now I feel like I can ride bikes for days, nonstop. I want to thank Aunt Dar, because now I know how to ride a bike.” – Jacob2RJake zooms around our beautiful local cemetery practicing to be a “bike riding fool!”
Thank you, Aunt Dar. I have watched you dance with your husband as inspiration to have a happy marriage of my own. I look up to you and how you raised your two wonderful boys each time I look at my own. Your thoughtful gifts have kept my spirits high through many low points in my life. I love you very much. I hope you know how wonderful you are.