Saturday, February 13, 2010

Valentine treasure from the mouth of a four-year-old

By Patty Maher,

Being “the favorite aunt” is a position that may be underrated and one I would like to advocate for this Valentine’s Day. There’s nothing like the love of people who are family members – flesh and blood relatives– over whom you have no ACTUAL responsibility but with whom you share fun and games.

It’s the best of all worlds, really.

Today I had a long conversation on the phone with my niece, Angela, who will be the first University of Michigan graduate from our family. I am on the A-list for her graduation ceremony – one of eight people who get to attend. President Obama is speaking and I come from a family of Democrats, so this is quite a prize. I also had quite a long talk with Angela's daughter, Ava Marie, 4, who was a bit distracted today by the idea of playing Candyland with her mother when our conversation ended.

Angela is a single mom but she and Ava Marie live with Ryan, one of the sweetest hoodlums I’ve ever met (He is not Ava's father, but I think he's pretty awesome step-father material and have been dropping hints in that direction). He calls me Aunt Patty, too. In fact, many of my nieces' and nephews' friends call me Aunt Patty – or the shorter and simpler AP. It works for me. I get invited to karaoke parties. In fact, once I was invited to be a judge for the Red Carpet Karaoke “American Idol” event in the basement of the friend of my nephew, Joe. I was supposed to be one of the judges, actually. But I really don’t watch much TV and hadn't really seen a full episode of the popular show, so I was a little uncomfortable with the honor. I did, however, get up and sing “Pour Some Sugar On Me” with my nephew and his friend, Marissa. I was dragged into, it of course. I’ve always been a shy one. Not.

Anyway, I have fun with these people -- my nieces and nephews. They love me no matter what I do -- sort of like puppy love, I suppose (though I have always been a cat person). This is what dog people tell me: Puppy love is "unconditional."

Last week when I took Ava Marie out to Big Boy she informed me of my place in her life.

“Aunt Patty: If my mom dies (again, her mother is my niece and 17-years younger than me, so this isn’t a very likely scenario), you’re going to have to take care of me,” she explained matter-of-factly. “And Ryan’s going to have to move in with you because he’s going to have to help.”

Afterward, I was both touched and worried until I talked about it with Angela and Ryan. They assured me everything is OK and that Ava hasn’t been afraid of death lately. I have spoken to Ava several times since our date at Big Boy and I agree with Angie and Ryan; there’s really nothing to be concerned about.


These people -- my nieces and nephews -- are truly my greatest Valentines ever – however many of them there are these days. Who’s counting? Not me. I’ve really never been good at math or keeping track of things. That’s why I’m such a good aunt, I suppose. I supply them with lots of fun – but they don’t have to rely on me in the end for any type of practical or material support. I support them in the unpractical. I encourage them to charge ahead and not to worry about what people think of them – to be true to themselves. They love me for it. And I totally feel that love. Such was the case last week when I was sitting across from Ava Marie as she was getting whipped cream and hot fudge all over her face at Big Boy.

After establishing that Angela Jean is not anywhere near death and Ava Marie, 4, really isn’t too worried, just planning ahead, I have decided to claim Ava's statement about my place in her life as The Best Valentine Ever.

Thank you nieces and nephews for the love!

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