Every family should have one — the aunt — the unmarried sister with no kids of her own who keeps the clan connected and close.
My housemate comes from a big family. All four brothers married at some point and have kids of their own. Their one sister, Des is single, never married, no kids.
In town from Lake Tahoe, Des came over recently to see our new house and we had a lovely dinner together. I like her a lot — she travels the world, she has a pack of Jack Russell terriers she trains for agility trials, she’s fixing up her home, she goes camping and she’s made her relatives her immediate family. By that I mean they are not people she only sees on holidays or emails occasionally. Nope. Des is involved and participating in their lives even though she doesn’t live in the L.A. area like the rest of them.
In particular, she has “adopted” my housemate’s youngest brother’s family. His kids are her kids… well, like her kids. She takes them on trips, stays at their house when she’s in town and knows intimately what’s going on with all four of them. But it’s not just those four kids. If you ever need to find out what’s going on with any of her siblings, the parents, the stepparents, the cousins, the other aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces, Des would be the source — not only for those who are living now, but for the family history going back decades.
My Aunt Dorothy was like that. A never-married high school history teacher, she spent every Christmas with us, sending tons of presents in advance, all beautifully wrapped under their covering of brown shipping paper. My first time away from home was when she drove me cross-country at the age of 3 to visit her in Illinois. She took me on trips every summer thereafter and we walked across every Civil War battlefield, through every colonial mansion and former president’s home east of the Mississippi. She wrote weekly letters in longhand and her red leather address book with names on every page was one of her most precious possessions.
She too, was the go-to source for all family history. And besides being able to recount verbally the stories that had been passed down to her, Dorothy was the family librarian who kept the musty-smelling books with family trees and old photos of ancestors long forgotten by everyone else.
Des, like Dorothy, does the same. Listening to her at dinner made me realize that each generation should have one person who steps up to be the keeper of the family flame. And it’s often the single sister who takes on the role of family historian, liaison between family members and back-up parent for her sibling’s children. She’s the kind of aunt immortalized in the book and play “Auntie Mame” — the fierce female force who sees the family landscape from a wide-view lens and calls scattered relatives back to the family hearth.
She’s the independent one who makes being single look like the freedom to follow your heart. She’s part shaman, sometimes eccentric, occasionally intrusive. She’s the mistress of ceremonies, motivational speaker and buoyant sibling who sees to it that the family ties stay tied. Every family should have one — the single aunt who, free from the pressing demands of a husband and her own children, can hold up the light that calls everyone home.
Copyright © Kim Calvert/2015 Singular Communications, LLC.
Kim Calvert is the editor of Singular magazine and the founder of the SingularCity social networking community. An outspoken champion of people who are living their lives as a “me” instead of a “we,” Kim oversees the creative direction and editorial content of the magazine and online social networking community. She secures contributors and is responsible for maintaining the fun, upbeat, inspirational and often-humorous tone of Singular, a lifestyle guide for successful single living.