This past weekend my aunt and I went through more of Mom’s belongings to get ready for the “estate” sale. At least, I think that’s what you’d call it since it will encompass more than the garage. Still, I don’t really consider us “estate” people – we’re more “squatters” or “modest dwelling inhabit-ors” or “one step away from that cozy spot under the bridge-ers,” but I guess “Better Than the Average Under the Bridge Sale” costs too much to print in the classified ads and would scare away potential customers. (To my cousin who is reading this and wondering what I’m talking about, it’s creative license. These people don’t know anything about us. Shhh. We’ll talk later.)
As we sifted through Mom’s remaining possessions we got to talking about the labels that have been assigned to members of our family, particularly to my aunt and her two sisters. See, my Mom was the oldest and immediately gained the titles of “the smart one” and “the athletic one.” Then my aunts came along and the youngest took “the funny one,” so that left the other aunt without a good title. At some point my family bestowed upon her “the affectionate one;” I guess they couldn’t think of anything better. As my aunt talked about it she noted, “who wants to be known as the affectionate one”?
Labels are funny in how they can define you and how they can do so with one single word – one annoying little adjective that works its way under our skins. My aunts and my Mom grew up with these labels and were defined by those labels. My Mom was smart, my Aunt Jen, who also passed away fairly recently, was very funny, and my Aunt Philis is affectionate… and they were and are so much more than one word.
In many ways, I feel lucky that I was the only child born to my parents. I got to be all the adjectives – I got to be the smart one, the talented one, the funny one, and the nice one. I know there are words that are used to describe me used by the family as a whole – I secretly think I’m probably the “not quite” one – not quite as smart as some, not quite as creative, not quite as thoughtful, but decent enough to have around during the holidays, and kinda funny with a decent memory. I’m ok with those labels because I know when I talk to my Dad any limiting label is shed and I immediately become all that is best – an envious position for any child to have with a parent.
There are so many words to describe my Aunt that are more than simply “affectionate” such as beautiful, smart, talented, outgoing, gregarious, funny and longer descriptors like hard-working, easy with a laugh, good listener and great tap dancer – and for the past two years she’s been the person we all turn to for strength as my cousins and I cope with the loss of our moms, her sisters. She’s so much more than simply “affectionate” and I know the rest of my family would agree.
As I was thinking about our conversation over the weekend, I guess I felt lucky to have the family I have (both by blood and by choice, as my friend Jonathan might say), and I hope that everyone realizes they are so much more than just a single word to the people around them. (Except for my ex-husband who really is just that one word I use to describe him. :))