Auntie Sage

When my oldest brother brought home his future wife, I thought she was feminine, sweet, nurturing, and kind.
She was the leader of a sorority Bible study, authentic and pure, and had this endearing innocence that made you want to hug her, but not, seeing as she is not the huggy mushy type at all, a woman who clearly respected her space, always dressed in Ann Taylor type fashion, with perfect accessories, an air of respect even in tennis shorts, and might I add, has great posture. I thought that was hilarious that she understood my brother’s ways of showing affection, so unnatural and rude, her being so lady like, and yet, he would throw her over the couch like a potato sack, or into the walls with his elbows. She would roll her eyes, indignant, and I would laugh, watching her time after time, be pushed into the pool mid sentence, and wonder how such a classy girl put up with a man who flirted like a twelve year old.
Actually, twelve year old boys are way more mature.
We laugh now that he had warned her before we met that I was a hippy, something I wouldn’t call myself, but can completely understand from his point of view. She is everything I am not.
She is organized, detailed, private, family driven, being from a large network of grandparents who competed to love her, she always saw the importance in traditions, the master mind behind every family event. She is the apple dipped into caramel of fall, the cotton candy of summer, the smell of Christmas in winter, and the table of colored dye and candy eggs of Spring.

I wonder if she knows how much I marvel at her abilities, at what is just natural to her, while I am always holding my list of the two items she has assigned, breathing and praying I don’t forget the napkins and the ice, showing up with them and realizing sometimes she bought them anyway, probably just in case I forgot.

I have seen her grow from a college girl to a married woman to a mother in ten long hard years, and when I look back, I am amazed at what I have seen. The girl who burst into tears at our first Thanksgiving meal as a wife, who apologized and apologized for being homesick, a feeling I so understood when I first married, it just broke my heart. I saw her grieve her father’s heart attack, nurse my brother through a surgery so intense we thought we all might die from fright, a diagnosis we thought could be the end. She waited five years before my brother was ready to have the Prince, my nickname for my nephew, the most beautiful baby boy on the planet. She has been in every step of our experience with my father, through the destruction, and like Divorcee, she has experienced something no one else has language for but us. My favorite detail in getting to know her is that she is not sweet like I thought at all.

She is a warrior, someone you want on your side, so loyal that if you cross someone she loves, or considers family, I would be scared to pass her in the street, her fury of anything unjust you can see in her eyes, feel in her disgust. All the women who have broken the hearts of my brothers along with certain family members I shall refrain from listing, I dare them to cross her.

She is intuitive beyond belief, and it is has been hilarious to see her interact with women she has not believed correct for my brothers. She once turned to me, pregnant at the time, when one brother now married, had brought a rather obnoxious girl eating ribs while arguing loudly to the dinner table.

That is not the girl for him,” she hissed.

She walked all the way to the opposite end of the table from her, disgusted, not speaking to her the entire night, rolling her eyes, and I laughed and laughed. She was dead serious, like it was personal, which family is to her, something I find adorable and scary, my dating life being what it has been, wondering what man Auntie Sage would think right for me.

She has been right about them all so far.

I thought she was a sweet girl that David loved dearly but it wasn’t until I had children that I fell in love with her myself. It has been a humbling shattering ten years since she danced as my brother’s date, at my wedding, and I know I have been a source of incredible fear and pain for everyone in my family, especially when the girls came, and our marriage had become toxic.

Auntie Sage, I shall name her, when I was only bones from stress and grief, showed up with new outfits, toys, and gifts, bringing family to me, if that is what it would take. Kat is just like her in so many ways, in her love of family traditions, and Auntie Sage has shown her all the ways a family can be.

Lola is in love with her shoes, and Auntie Sage, unlike me, gets nice shoes, expensive jewelry, and designer purses. She brings her fashionable new boots and never pays for anything but the best, and she loves them with such purity and kindness that it is making me cry now, wondering how it would have impacted me to have had an Auntie Sage I could always count on, a real relationship with someone who loved me unconditionally as a child.

I see how it affects them in their little spirits, the way they light up when she walks in, the excitement of what she might have bought, or what she has baked, or how she will react when they tell her the latest news.

When I had to leave Divorcee, the most painful tragic fearful place of my life, my brother and she tucked a check in my hand, told me not to pay it back, her chin up and stubborn, and I’ll never forget that. I will never forget the way she mothered them and Baby bro, her gifts to my life have been unmeasurable.

She has taught me a lot about life, about myself.

She has taught me that family has nothing to do with personality, which ours are vastly different, life experiences, knowing we both live life as virtual polar opposites on this planet. Our way of dressing and thinking and being are nothing alike, her dedication to service and church on Sunday something I have always respected, knowing I can not be authentic in a religious system, and yet, I wonder if my own girls should go with her, wanting them to have a full spectrum of what is out there, to choose for themselves, a role

Auntie Sage has played brilliantly in my life.

Family is not about anything but love. I thought being from a house of a bunch of men would mean that having sisters would be holding hands and borrowing clothes, finishing sentences and sharing dreams, talking for hours, a fantasy I always wanted, jealous of everyone else that had it.

Auntie Sage is not my twin, nor do we talk on the phone, finish any sentence without confusion, and I hate lists nor do I cook, while she probably wants to choke me, never knowing if I need to be reminded again for the one thing I need to bring, showing up after she works and works to make each family function perfect. Love transcends all the details, because she is my sister after all, my family, and I wouldn’t change a thing about her, not for any best friend in the world.

Happy Birthday, Auntie Sage.
I bet you thought I forgot. Okay, maybe Nana did mention it, but it wasn’t like I had not written it down.

You are everything I wished I was, so what would I do without you, to complete the missing parts, to fill in the blanks, to make ice cream sundaes and buy ribbons for the girl’s hair?
I would be just a half, but your balance has made this family a whole.

Not to mention, the boys would have married and procreated monster children we would have had to endure for a lifetime, so I consider you not to only be Auntie Sage, but the sole leader as disaster future wife prevention, a title I owe you for life.
That and your promise to take Lola shopping when she is sixteen, for sparkly shiny shoes, lipstick, her call to smell the differences of Gucci and Coach remain a mystery to me, being she is only four.
Me, Kat, and the Prince will wait for you guys to come home, eat whatever you have in the fridge, forget the lists and wander about till we find an adventure and we will burst through the door, late, to tell you guys as you model what you bought, and it will be family, a reminder of my favorite quote that “Normal is just a setting on the dryer.”

Cloudy with a Chance of Hurt Elephants

Tomorrow my little brother is getting married to a fabulous girl.

She has perfect teeth and golden blond hair but she has this really cool flavor to her as if she might just have been goth in high school so you forgive all her very perfect perfections.

She has a cat named Waffles and loves to read books to my girls, never skipping pages like me when I get tired of reading the same story over and over.

She takes her time and turns the pages so slowly, skimming her eyes over each one to make sure she caught every detail.

I love this about her.

Tonight can be described in cocktail dresses, the chatter of old friends meeting again, little girls in pearls, men in shiny ties and of course, the random clinking of glasses with forks to toast the future groom and bride.

It would seem as the perfect night for any rehearsal dinner except in our case, there was a big elephant in the room.

My dad wasn’t there.

Baby brother addressed this in his speech which felt like a small punch in the gut, my mom crying in to her napkin, apologetically. He did a good job and my heart filled with love and pride as he described our family as being put back together, but better and stronger.

None of us kids are very good at hiding big elephants; it is our greatest strength and flaw at the same time.

After a lot of work on my own daddy issues, including the grief and forgiveness acquired because of them, I was surprised at my hurt tonight. I mean actually surprised.

It was as if I wanted to put my hand over the hurt, the throb that seemed to beat with my heart, and look around to see if anyone else noticed what I did, this deep hurt, breathing and living and hiding inside of me. I am not good at hiding it, so I don’t know how or what to do with it, except go on, doing all the things that seem right, like attending weddings and taking photos and making blueberry pancakes for my little ones for breakfast.

I actually just told Clyde that it wasn’t even there anymore and tonight I feel so defeated, as if it is somehow my fault that I can’t confidently say I am moving forward, as if that isn’t what I want more than anything in the world.

I’m supposed to be joyful, grateful, always looking for the lesson and the rainbow on a dark cloudy night.

And I will. But, tonight, dear readers, I just hurt.