Saturday, January 21, 2012
Great (Aunt) Expectations
Sometimes I picture my only child like a round little river rock surrounded by ever-expanding ripples of soul-protection. The closest ripple is his immediate family -- myself, my husband, and my twin sister who's helped raise him. His four little cousins are another important ripple. If you have to be an only child, it is fabulously lucky to have four first cousins who just happen to be your exact same age. (More on this extraordinary coincidence in a future post.)
Next comes the grandparent ripple, a complicated one that also deserves its own post. And then, further out because of physical distance but towing an enormous pull in its wake, is my son's Great-Aunt Ripple. He has four of them, wonderful women all: my father's four sisters, ranging in age from early 50s to early 70s. They all live within a few miles of one another, but, alas, 1000 miles away from us. They have four distinct personalities, but all of them live to laugh, and love to bestow their various grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-nieces and great-nephews with handmade gifts so unique and well-done they put upstart crafters to shame.
These ladies were ETSY before ETSY was even an embryo. Since Beau was born, he has received no less than three quilts from them, one made out of John Deere-printed fabric with his name in foot-tall letters on the back; white fisherman sweaters and eggplant-shaped hats; and blankets and books galore, including, memorably, a custom-assembled hardcover book using personal photos and a story line his great-aunt wrote to his interests (i.e., trucks and tractors).
This fall, we went up north to visit, and there was a party to celebrate all the October birthdays in the family. Somehow, though, it was my own October baby who came away with the bounty. The take included a book about making homemade toy boats, complete with all the materials needed to make them; a triptik for the 12-hr. drive back comprised of a paper grab bag for every state we passed through (inside each bag was a puzzle or book, a snack and a toy); and a gingerbread house to make. While we were there, Beau was presented with the decorative embellishments for two homemade cakes -- two! One great-aunt managed to find candy Legos. Another great-aunt bought licorice "worms" and a load of other scary edibles to make a haunted cake. Putting these elaborate confections together was an artistic joy for Beau, jumpstarting a love of whipping up interesting messes in the kitchen.
Most recently, one of the great-aunts sent him a roll-out fabric "road" she'd made, printed with bulldozers and edged with a series of pockets to shelter matchbox cars. It gave me a shock of nostalgia, being reminiscent of something made for my sister and me, from the same source, almost 40 years ago: a felt wall hanging with pockets marked A-Z that held small felt toys for each letter.
The fabric road came with a comment: "I know he'll do something creative with this." It is precisely that sentiment that makes all their gifts so irreplaceable. Beau's too young yet to fully appreciate what these ladies do for him, but basking in thoughtfulness this authentic, and being expected to bring his own ideas to the proverbial table, can only be a good thing. Make that great.