Now, y’all know I love my mama. No one’s mama is better than mine.
But what you don’t know is that one of the reasons I love my mama so much is because she gave me a second mama, her sister Margaret, better known as Aunt Sissy. I don’t think it was a calculated move on her part, but my mama always encouraged my close relationship with her sister, and when I was a teenager, it was only Sissy who could shine the light, or shame me into seeing the reasoning, on the decisions my parents made that impacted me. Curfew, for example.
Now that I am “grown,” or at least post-teenage (to the joy of everyone, I am sure), my aunt is my second mama, and my dear friend. I like to run down to Georgia once or twice (or better yet more) a year, for some girl time, and while I almost always work in a trip to Atlanta to see my Belles, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t plan a trip that included my aunt Sissy. Her influence on me is far deeper than she knows.
And so on Mother’s Day, I send my darlin’ mama a card. And I send her equally darlin’ sister a card, because she’s laid down the law to me about boys (when I was 20, she counseled me not to marry until I was 30, and when I married at 29, with her blessing and obvious joy, I still felt somewhat guilty), fought over the last ruffled cardigan in my size at the J. Crew sale (thanks, Sis), shed blood over the last Cabbage Patch kid circa Christmas 1988 (the pictures show that I was very clearly thrilled), taught me to make real Caesar salad (necessity: good anchovies), and thrown or assisted in the throwing of any number of parties for me or with me (high school graduation, me finally passing math 101 in college, Georgia graduation, Hillstock, law school graduation, book club, my wedding, and Laura Avery’s bridal shower, to name just a few). Clearly, Sissy is there in the big moments. And she’s there in the small ones, too. Our day to day interactions are the sort that lay down the layers of mortar on an unshakable relationship. The kind mothers and daughters have, or hope to have.
When Howard died, I was sent to the airport to pick Sissy up. Not that I would have argued with my mother, in the state she was in, about being assigned a task, and picking Sissy up was one of the few things I actually wanted to do in the immediate rush of Howard’s death. More than I wanted an instant heroin addiction, lifting me away from the real world carnage into iridescent clouds. More even than I wanted tangible proof of God’s existence. I was willing to tussle with that subject later on. But I wanted to go to the airport and pick up my aunt. That is how much my aunt centers me. No, she is not perfect, though she is a good, Christian woman. She is beautiful. She worries entirely too much about her dogs. Her knee is damaged, her hands not as strong as they once were. Her laugh is contagious. Her style is inimitable. Her taste is impeccable. Especially in men. Though I was suspicious of her soon-to-be-husband, Funcle P, when I was ten, by eleven I saw the love that he poured on her, at twelve I saw the joy that she took in him, at twenty I knew I couldn’t settle for less than she had, and at thirty I look to her marriage for guidance in my own.
On this Mother’s Day, I want to celebrate the women that did not give birth to us, who mother us, and the women that give birth to us, that celebrate these relationships, unthreatened, knowing that we can never have too much good mothering. Thank you, Mom, and Sissy.
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