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Aunts Rule

My brother and his wife welcomed their second beautiful daughter last week, a perfect dark-haired girl who is a near photocopy of her precious 2-year-old sister.

I have since announced to everyone I know that I have once again become an Aunt – a "tia" in Spanish – and we are counting down the days until we fly north to hold and kiss the newest member of our family. Maria asks daily how many days we have left to go.

Because one of my beloved tias was here visiting this weekend, I have been thinking a lot about the women in my family, who with their love and talents and funny – and even maddening – ways contributed to my life, making it richer as a child and even now that I have gray hair.

I have a lot of tias, you see. Even great-aunts and second-cousins old who were more like aunts. Some have nicknames that describe just who they are. For example, there's "The Cuban Marilyn Monroe," a sexy senior citizen who can cook, sew, and decorate anything. She's the one who visited this weekend. She taught me to make a pattern and sew a skirt for Maria in a mere few hours. There's also "Mi Tia Mas Bella" ("My Most Beautiful Aunt"). She's my mom's youngest and fun-loving sister and the one who spoiled me most and "El Sargento" (The Sergeant), my mom's older and most proper sister whom Maria learns many Cubanisms and Spanish songs from.

And because I was lucky enough to be raised in a large extended family, I saw these women regularly, even daily, for most of my childhood. These are the women who took me to the beach every weekend, who dressed me up in their costume jewelry, who told me to sit up straight, listened, and guided when I was angry at my own mother, who showed me by example everything from cooking from scratch to sweeping properly. (Sweeping is a very big deal to El Sargento.)

I realize that I really did study these women when I was little and learned from them, rolled parts of them into the whole of me. I've talked to my cousins about their mothers, told them how much their mothers mean to me. They've told me how much my own mother has meant to them. My mom is the bold aunt, the one with whom they can share naughty jokes, the one who dragged them toward the dance floor when they were kids.

My daughter has aunts – some by blood, some by choice – who adore and spoil her and I count my blessings for them. Little kids need women in their lives who don't care whether they've cleaned their rooms or fed the cat.

So now that there are these girls who call me Tia, I am moved to tears because we do not see each other regularly, and that we may not share the kinds of memories I have with my own beloved aunts. But, we'll make the most of it. My tribe of tias – several of whom read this space religiously – has taught me how.

I have a lot of living up to do.


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