The Aunts and Uncles

Or How I Broke In My Mom’s Family So They Would Some Day Be Sane Enough To Have Children…

I’ve mentioned before that my mother was the middle child of seven children. You would think as a middle child she was mostly ignored and unnoticed. Not so. She was the most practical and responsible child, so she wound up taking care of everyone. She became the second mom and my grandmother relied heavily on her ever since she was very small. Everyone had jobs on the farm, but she had a bit more because she felt that she needed to pick up anyone’s slack. Her older sister tended to slack. To keep the peace- because my mother loves peace at any cost- she would do the work and say nothing.

My mother married young, just out of high school, and had me a few years later. My father was quite a bit older. About 16 years older, in fact. But she was very mature and he was very….not. They moved to New Jersey where they settled down. Shortly, half of her brothers and sisters moved to Jersey in neighboring towns with their own spouses. My mother’s little brother moved in with us after graduating college, until he could get on his feet.

He had gone to school to learn electrical engineering part time, so it took him longer to finish. He would study half the year and work half the year. I’m just prefacing this so you realize he wasn’t a total kid.

I was about four when he moved in. I was a quiet kid, very shy. I seemed almost more adult than child. I felt more comfortable chatting over tea than playing with toys. We didn’t quite know what to make of each other. He was this big, goofy guy who called mac and cheese from a box “Agent Orange” and watched Cheech and Chong movies with my mom. (Which, oddly, I was allowed to watch as well. Mom always said that she thought they were damn funny and figured I had no clue what was going on anyway.)

A lot of my stories about him from that time end with him looking shocked and horrified, saying, “Never tell your mommy about this! She’ll kill me!” As you can guess, he’s my favorite uncle. Over time, I had been babysat by several of the aunts also and I started to realize something: these people had no clue as to how to deal with children. Sadly, if I thought that back then, you know it was bad. The only reason my mom left me with them was because she knew I was self-sufficient. I just needed longer arms at times to reach for things.

They did learn, though, with time. And with having kids of their own. But, as further proof that I taught them about raising kids, if they couldn’t find my mom to ask her something, they’d find me. I’ve been doling out baby advice for as long as I can remember. It’s hysterical when you think of it but it always came naturally to me and it clearly did not come naturally to some. But I love the crazy bastards. They can make me laugh like no one else. We all have the same twisted sense of humor. I love when we get together and tell stories. That’s when I’ll remind my cousins how lucky they are that I broke them in first, otherwise they’d need massive amounts of therapy.

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