My mailbox was empty. As it has been on my birthday for the past few years, ever since my aunt passed away. I could always count on her card arriving, just as I could always count on her to make my favorite eggplant dip at Hanukah and to advice me on everything from house cleaning to cleaning up my love life.

Her words: Don’t ever be the “other woman,” led me to into the arms of the right man and to long, happy marriage.

Because of this closeness I shared with my aunt, I wanted that same special relationship with my niece, Jessie. As I gave birth several months after she was born, I was able to nurse Jessie, forming a connection which continued through her various “finding oneself” stages until she landed where she was supposed to be.  I knew we had formed the bond I had hoped for when Jessie asked me to make a toast at the rehearsal dinner for her wedding a few weeks ago.

I thought it would be easy, but turning my deep love and affection into meaningful words became quite a challenge. Especially when looking out at sea of unfamiliar faces (the groom’s family greatly surpassed ours in number.)

I had bit too much too drink, was way too nervous and my words came bumbling out as if fleeing a nest. But I think my love for this wonderful young woman showed through, as well as the importance of an aunt in one’s life. There are many types of family relationships, but none quite like the one between an aunt and a niece.

An aunt is an adult figure but not necessarily a disciplinarian. In my case, I am a friend, a co-conspirator and confidante. Having shared skinned knees, broken hearts and many secrets with her mother (my sister) I have insights into what makes her mother tick.   I have the power to get under, around and into her mother’s skin. A beneficial aspect to being an aunt. And I have the ability to reason with my sister, as I’ve had to do while growing up, reminding her that she didn’t always follow our parents’ rules.  

Granted, there can be some pressure. When my sister isn’t available I have to color in the gaps, heal, soothe and comfort.  I’ve been the recipient of many crying jags, but always happy to catch those tears.

 

On her wedding day, I shed tears of my own as Jessie said her vows and walked back down the aisle toward her future. I wished my aunt could have been there so share this day, along with her eggplant. But as my niece smiled at the guests, I knew right then what I had to do.

I am sending Jessie the eggplant recipe along with my famous turkey stew. In years to come, I hope she adds a recipe of her own to these and passes it down to her niece. Because although slang, fashion, and values change throughout the years, good old fashioned family recipes never die, even if the ingredients are found unhealthy. On the contrary, they keep family alive.

And I am adding her wedding day into my “dates to remember.” Because I don’t ever want Jessie’s box, be it mail, email, text, or whatever futuristic correspondence is coming, to be empty on those special days.

That is, until my game is up.

Janie Emaus believes that when the world is falling apart, we're just one laugh away from putting it together again.  She writes about how life is NOW compared to THEN, with her special blend of funny and sweet. She is the author of the time travel romance, Before the After, and the young adult novel, Mercury in Retro Love.  And she has an essay in the Best Selling humor anthology, You Have Lipstick On Your Teeth.  She is a staff writer at In The Powder Roomand blogs frequently for The Huffington Post. She is proud to be named a 2013 BlogHer Voice of the Year. To learn more about Janie visit her blog www.theboomerrants.com and her website www.JanieEmaus.com.