This is for you Aunt Toni because I am not sure if you really know who you are to us.
I have been blessed to be part of a large Italian family. However, it has only been the past five years that I have been able to come back into the fold. I was estranged from my extended family for most of the years I was married and the minute I decided to end the marriage I crept back, I ran back, I jumped back as quickly as I could. I was welcomed there, at my Aunt Toni's house. I was made a part of my family as if years had never separated any of us. At Aunt Toni's house I felt safe and loved and unashamed of what my life had become.
This is you, Aunt Toni. This is the effect you have helped to create in our family and I wonder do you know how the simple olive branches you always reach out are truly what bring us all back? Us nieces and nephews who wander in and out of the family-somehow, we all feel the need to come back at one point or another to you and everything you represent in all of our childhoods.
Aunt Toni was the best aunt any child could hope for. She is still the best aunt to every child that enters her life. She always had time for us and never thought twice to pack up all of us in her bright orange VW beetle and take us skating every weekend. I remember being a tag along throughout her young adult life for shopping trips and then ratting her out to my grandmother by accident and telling how much she spent. I remember sleeping in her room when I spent the night at my grandparents, giant hot pink flowers on the wallpaper and the smell of her perfume on the sheets. And her closet beheld many delights of gorgeous clothing and high heels to try on when she was out, along with the vanity to try on lipsticks and break them and hide them hoping she did not notice.
Aunt Toni always had time to listen, to talk, to play, to tease, to hug and to hold us. She was as silly as we were and I think we knew she actually really liked every single one of us whether we were behaving well or not. She is still like this. In her eyes, there are no bad kids. Just kids. (now I am not saying she is a saint and that some don't get on her nerves. I am saying she would never let a child know they were on her nerves.)She has never been one to put any of us off. It has always been in times of troubles, "I'm here. Right now. I am here right this minute to help you."
Today was what we call "Tuesday at Toni's". Our family gets together at her house and gathers in the summer. Aunt Toni cooks up a storm and everyone is welcome. Today, as I ate her wonderful stuffed mushrooms I looked around at my family and I felt so very thankful for my dear Aunt. It is her. It is YOU, Aunt Toni, you are the reason we are here. You find us all when we are lost. You reach out, you call us all back and you never give up. I have never known you to stop reaching out to those you love. And because of that we are together. What a blessing to see my Aunts, my Uncle, my parents my cousins and all of the children on just an ordinary day and for no reason other than we want to be together.
I know some are still missing and this makes you sad. But they are coming Aunt Toni. Truly they are. The call of your heart is strong. Sooner or later, we all come back to you and each of us is so thankful that you always want us.
Thank you for never giving up.
Monika M. Basile