Being an aunt from 2,000 miles away is tough.
Through the magic of Facebook and text messaging, I feel like I know this child and could pick her out of a crowd. I’m peripherally aware of what she likes, how ding-dong* much she suddenly looks like a kid instead of a baby and even some of the milestones she’s conquered.
The problem lies in reciprocity. I am a stranger to her, someone who sends cards and gifts. I had some aunts and uncles like this as I was growing up. I knew them as family, but it was more in the way you regurgitate something you’re taught: “Two times two is four, two times three is six, and I have an aunt who lives in Indiana.” Gifts and cards were appreciated, but perhaps were not as meaningful as they were to the people who sent them.
I understand the odd relationship from both sides of the fence. As an adult, I don’t mind spending time with the aunts and uncles I know from a distance. It has been ingrained in me that I can trust them because they’re family, so I don’t feel scared to see them or talk to them. As a matter of fact, I crave getting to know them because I missed out on “growing up” with them.
As the aunt, I’ll probably never understand why my niece presumably won’t confide in me. Worse, I may offer to take her in for a week or two when she gets older and be consistently denied because she’s not comfortable coming to visit someone she doesn’t really know, on a plane, with no escape in sight. That’s a feeling I can relate to.
Sometimes the only way I can take comfort in this situation is to hope I’ll be able to have my own child someday. The fear of infertility makes me panic, but like everyone else, I won’t know until we try. As the days click by, peeling my youth away, I feel more and more certain I’ll only ever be an Absentee Aunt.
The fear of infertility is uncomfortable for me to talk about, so I’m not sure how to end this post… the end.
*Side note: Ding-dong has become what I say when I want to say a curse word. I have no idea how this happened. I blame living west of the Mississippi.