Aunt Suzie by
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(176 Stories)

Prompted By Aunts & Uncles

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My nephew and niece at a family reunion, 2013, ages 27 and 36

Yes, music fans, there really is a song called Aunt Suzie. It’s by an artist called Buckethead, it’s an instrumental, and it’s not spelled my way. Apparently his Aunt Suzie was the person who gave him his first guitar when he was 12 years old, so he wrote a wordless song to thank her.

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I decided this time to look at the flip side of the coin and write about my own experience as an aunt.

In 2018, when this prompt came up the first time, I wrote Go Tell Aunt Rhody, about my two aunts, Adele and Daisy, as well as Daisy’s husband Ed. Since I have no other aunts or uncles to write about, I decided this time to look at the flip side of the coin and write about my own experience as an aunt.

I only have one niece and one nephew related to me by blood. While my husband has three brothers, and each of them has two children, I don’t really have a relationship with any of those kids. If his twin brother, who has a daughter the same age as Molly, still lived here, I might have been close with that daughter, but they moved across the pond two decades ago.

So the two people I have an “aunt” relationship with are the daughter of one sister and the son of the other sister. Neither one of them has ever called me Aunt Suzy, except when we were goofing around. My family is not big on using honorifics; we are much more informal. When I was a child I even called my parents’ good friends by their first names without the pseudo aunt and uncle titles they had their kids use for my parents.

My middle sister was the first one in the family to have a baby, in 1977. The birth occurred just weeks before I finished law school, and I remember being so excited! In those days we didn’t know the gender ahead of time, but I was hoping for a girl and was delighted to get one. I first met my new niece in September 1977, when she was four months old and I was twenty-six. I had graduated from law school and taken the bar exam but didn’t have a job yet. My sister and brother-in-law had a childcare crisis and asked me to come to Colorado to take care of the baby, so of course I said yes. I can’t remember how long I stayed, it may have been just a week or at most ten days, but I totally fell in love with that baby! In fact, that was when I first started thinking I wanted to have a baby of my own some day. Before that, I had not been interested in kids at all.

A couple of years later I visited them in Colorado again, and once again got to spend some time alone with my niece while her parents were at work. Here’s a picture of us having breakfast together. (There are also some pictures from that visit where we are in a hot tub, but I’m not posting those because we weren’t wearing any bathing suits.)

The next time I got to be the doting aunt was when my sister and her family came to California on vacation when my niece was about three. My sister and her husband needed some time alone together to work on their marriage, so I made a reservation at St. Orres, a very romantic hotel and spa in Gualala, on the coast north of San Francisco. My niece and I got to hang out at my house for a long weekend. We rode around in my little Alfa Romeo sportscar, and visited a colleague of mine who had a daughter the same age. We also went to the zoo and FairyTale Town, and had a lot of fun together.

My favorite story from that visit involves my cat Loretta. My niece kept running after Loretta to try to pet her, but Loretta would run away. I told her, “you have to be patient and she will come to you.” She said “okay.” But then as soon as she saw her again, she would run after her again. I would say, “Be patient,” and she would say “okay.” This kept happening over and over, and finally in exasperation I said, “Do you know what patient means?” “No.”

When I got married in 1983, I asked my niece to be my flower girl. She was two months shy of six years old, and did a great job, skipping down the aisle spreading flower petals, making everyone laugh with delight at her cuteness.

Once I had a baby of my own, in 1985, I was so busy learning how to be a mother that I didn’t have time to be a very attentive aunt. I did still see her at family reunions, but that wasn’t the same as having special aunt-niece alone time. After I had my second child, Ben, in 1988, of course, I was even busier with my own two, but there must have been some problem about who would take care of her during her school spring vacation since her parents were both working, so she started coming to Sacramento every April to stay at my house for a week. Those were really special visits. She would help take care of her younger cousins, and I got to have some one-on-one time with her. This picture is from spring break 1989, which was probably the first year that she came to visit us by herself. She was twelve, Sabrina was four, and Ben was nine months old.

She continued the spring break tradition for a few more years, including the year that one or both of my kids had chicken pox, which she had already had. The visits probably ended when she was deemed old enough to stay home by herself and/or when she got her driver’s license.

My nephew arrived on the scene in 1986, the son of my oldest sister who lived in New York. He was eighteen months younger than Sabrina and two years older than Ben, so I was always busy with my own little ones when he was small. But because those three kids were so close together in age, my oldest sister and I wanted to make sure they got to know and love each other even though they lived on opposite sides of the country. So we became adamant about having a family reunion every summer, no matter what else was going on. The kids had a great time playing together, although three is an inherently unstable number, so the alliances kept shifting. Sometimes, especially in the earliest years, it was the two older ones against the baby. Other times it was the two Californians against their cousin. Most often, perhaps predictably, it was the two boys against the girl. But they always loved each other even when they were ganging up on each other!

For many years our family reunions were on the East Coast, generally at a resort called Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York. At some point my nephew complained to his mother that it wasn’t fair that everyone else got to fly to the reunions, and, since they lived in Brooklyn Heights, they just drove. So then a tradition started of their family coming out to California to visit us during Christmas vacation (as it was then called). My mother and the Colorado branch weren’t involved, it was just the New Yorkers who came. Usually we stayed in Sacramento, but one year we went to a dude ranch in Arizona, and another year we went to Mexico. Those were great visits, and I enjoyed spending time with my nephew and his parents. But I never had the kind of alone time with him that I did with my niece, so I didn’t develop a close relationship with him when he was a child. However, at this point, now that everyone is an adult, I feel equally close with both my niece and nephew.

The featured image is of the two of them at a family reunion in 2013. Mohonk gave those green t-shirts to all members of families who held their reunions there that year, with the option to have the family name or a slogan printed on the front (there is a big picture of the Mountain House on the back), which we opted not to do. The photograph of all of us in our matching t-shirts, from which that image was cropped, is quite a sight to behold.

I hope that my niece and nephew would both say that I have been a good aunt to them. Maybe I will send them this story and ask for feedback.

Profile photo of Suzy Suzy


Characterizations: right on!, well written

Comments

  1. Wonderful story Aunt Suzy! Lucky you are to have those relationships with your sisters and their kids.

    My husband was an only child, thus no nieces and nephews on that side, and my late sister’s only child Michael is severely autistic. Thankfully he is in a wonderful group home with compassionate caregivers, but sadly barely knows us when we visit.

    Happily though I have close ties to the children of several of my cousins who regard me as an aunt to my great delight!

  2. John Shutkin says:

    I am mightily impressed that you found a song to fit the prompt — though I admit I’ve never heard of it either — and I think it is a brilliant approach to write about your own experiences as an aunt. And I love the way you describe your gradual growth into “aunt-dom” with your niece and how you fully embrace it with both your niece and nephew now. Really an inventive and lovely story in all ways. I am sure your niece and nephew will feel the same way when you share the story with them, which I hope you do.

    Two minor carps. First, no hot tub pictures? And second, we went to Mohonk about fifteen years ago for my sister-in-law’s birthday with a lot of other family members. We had a great time but didn’t get any tee shirts. (I realize the latter is not your fault.)

    • Suzy says:

      It was definitely a challenge to find a song for this story title. When I found it, I was so disappointed that it didn’t have any lyrics.

      Sorry about the Mohonk t-shirts. It might have been a new feature that they instituted in 2013. We had been there for family reunions several times in the ’90s and ’00s, and had never gotten t-shirts. We went back for the last time in 2014, and the shirts were a hideous shade of olive drab, so I have never worn that one again, whereas I do wear the kelly green one (I have it on right now!).

  3. Betsy Pfau says:

    Suzy, it can be difficult getting to know long-distant relatives, so I give your family (and you in particular) high marks for doing such a great job of staying in touch and really working at relationship building. The photos of all are adorable. Love your bridal/flower girl photo. Just wonderful, it is great to see everyone at various points in their lives.

    Family dynamics between cousins are tricky and you described them so well. The family reunions sound like so much fun. You’ve written about them before. It is just great that you all have kept that tradition alive and get to spend time together. I envy you that time. Thanks for sharing your niece and nephew with us.

    • Suzy says:

      Thanks for your comment, Betsy. I had a lot more pictures of my niece and nephew at various ages, but I ended up not using them because they didn’t relate to my aunt-dom (to use John’s word). Still fun for me to remember them through the years. I’m sad that we probably won’t be able to have a reunion this year because of covid.

      • Betsy Pfau says:

        Yes, I understand about not being able to see loved ones due to COVID, Suzy. I don’t know when I’ll be able to see my own children again. But your annual family reunion is a great tradition, and it’s a shame to break that one.

  4. Marian says:

    This is a creative take on being an aunt, Suzy. It’s heartwarming that you were able to establish such a close relationship with your niece in particular. Really enjoyed reading this and learning about your family!

  5. “Do you know what ‘patient’ means?” “No.” LOL!

    Suzy, what a perfect, sweet story! I, too, am an aunt but not nearly as good an aunt as you. I’m afraid I didn’t make much of an effort, whereas it sounds like you did because that’s just who you are. They probably already know it, but I do hope your niece and nephew read this and see how much they mean to you…and I’m sure you mean just as much to them.

    I’m with John…no hot tub pix? And OMG, what a stunningly gorgeous bride!!

  6. Suzy this really strikes a chord. (Oops; that was unintentional). I read your comment on my story before I read yours; yours definitely makes the case about the flip side. Just enchanting. Mohonk Mountain, huh? Know it pretty well, as I do most of Ulster County, where my father’s family first settled.

  7. Laurie Levy says:

    I hope you did send this to them, Suzy. Being an aunt is a special relationship, especially when you are a young aunt without children of your own. I remember spending lots of fun time with my husband’s older sister’s kids when they were little. Practice for being a parent sans the responsibility. Now one of them is a grandparent! So it goes. My other nieces and nephews were younger than my kids, so cousins by the dozens. I love them all, but it was not the same as playing with the first two.

  8. Risa Nye says:

    Suzy–So many crossovers in this story. Turns out my son James is the same age as your charming nephew–the one we met in NY last year in what we now call “the Before Times.” He is a delightful young man and I’m sure he’s going to enjoy reading this! We have stayed at St. Orres and were introduced to it by our daughter who loves to stay there when she comes out to visit from Syracuse. We have the same situation with East Coast/West Coast family. Since most of us live in CA, it behooves the NYers to come here for vacation. Sadly, this year their summer vacay has been postponed. Last time we were all together, my talented DIL designed a t-shirt for all the kids with their caricatures and “Cuzziepalooza 2018.” Your perspective here has given me the idea to write about what a great aunt (in both senses of the word) my sister was to my kids and grandkids–she went by Aunt Sooz. Loved reading about the family relationships over the years.

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