Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: The Aunties

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  • Megan Wegan,

    This Christmas, my son sat in slight mortification in rooms where my best friends were telling stories. That’s what aunties are for. The lying bitches.

    Pfft. There was no lying.

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1273 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    Great stuff. Never had any grandparents (I was at the tail-end of my mother's three marriages, with children produced between and thus disinherited) and no aunts, except for a Auntie Mona, who richly deserved her name.

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2271 posts Report Reply

  • Tim Michie,

    extravagant story-telling with higher values than strict accuracy

    sadly under rated that is, but fortunately frequently unrated.

    Auckward • Since Nov 2006 • 544 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan,

    MY "Aunties" are my actual aunties - 4 on my father's side, and 2 on Mum's. My Auntie Margaret is one of my favourite people on the world. No nonsense advice, undying support, and a willingness to make an ass of herself in any possible situation.

    I have an aunt I can never get off the phone, an aunt I get drunk with on every possible occasion - she calls me "the dirty bitch" - and they all make me snort when I laugh.

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1273 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    Delightful. Absolutely delightful. I am so glad that you, and she, had those friends in her life.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3121 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Jean had a precious bluntness too.

    Which can almost literally be a life-saver at time. After my foster Mother and Nan died on the same day (and some associated unpleasantness), I don’t think David quite gets what he did when he said, “You smell rank. Get in the shower, run a comb through your hair and I’ll have some lunch ready when you’re done.” Bless. There are times when a clout in the lug is as valuable as a cuddle.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11786 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    My father had six sisters...they were family (with all that implies.)
    My mother had 2 brothers (who loomed large in our lives especially after my father died) but her mother had six sisters and altho' they were greataunts, they were known just as The Aunts. They were of Scots descent and when that tribe
    got together, they told the most bawdy stories imaginable - not realising the little pitchers around knew more than a thing or 3 about their dialect...

    I cant know what it's like, not being part of a large extended family: it is part of the sadness of life that all the aunts & the uncles have died-

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Islander,

    I cant know what it's like, not being part of a large extended family: it is part of the sadness of life that all the aunts & the uncles have died-

    I had two actual aunts. One lives in Australia and I've only seen her twice, and the other was fifty-six when I was born, quiet, frail and neurotic. So I can't know what it's like being part of a large extended family, and neither can my children. What we give them instead is the extended tribe of our friends and their children, and hope it serves some of the same purpose.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4328 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark, in reply to Islander,

    And mine, Islander - except my mum's sister. Who, like my grandmother before her, has had her battles with mental illness, but who has survived, only to have to battle it with her youngest daughter. We have always been close, but she was never an escape for me. And then there were my dad's sisters, and sisters in law. They doted on me, and I on them. Aunty Molly, Aunty Pidgie, Aunty Ailsa, Aunty Connie, Aunty Jean. Sadly, the last of them died some time ago. My mother never had close friends when I was growing up, so the "Aunties" in a nonfamilial sense that I was closest to as a child, were the wives of my father's friends. Aunty Hazel, Ross Jensen's wife, who was redhaired and glorious; my Aunty Paddy who I went to on all of my exeats from Marsden, my Aunty Phil who lived in Wadestown and who would sweep up to school in her chauffeured Jag to take me home and feed me chocolate biscuits. All of them dead, now, alas.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3121 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark, in reply to Emma Hart,

    I think sometimes that those famiies - the ones you bring together yourself - are, for many, more true, more loyal, and more loving and supportive, than the one that raises you in your youth.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3121 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan, in reply to Emma Hart,

    Based on Christmas, it does. For me, at least.

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1273 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Jackie Clark,

    more true, more loyal, and more loving and supportive, than the one that raises you in your youth.

    This was particularly sharply true for my mother, whose friends stood by her when her family actively disowned her. Bev and Jean also went to lengths to conceal Mum's relationship with Peter (her first, Catholic, husband) from her parents while they were dating. She had houses in Lyttleton, Dunedin and Timaru where she could pretend to be "staying with a friend" whenever he was in port.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4328 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Megan Wegan,

    Based on Christmas, it does. For me, at least.

    We had Christmas with Megan, my dear friend Susan and her husband, and my partner and kids. It was just like Christmas except without the passive aggression and casual drunken racism and misogyny.

    It was utterly wonderful, and after my last Christmas, pretty much a life-saver for me.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4328 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan, in reply to Emma Hart,

    It was just like Christmas except without the passive aggression and casual drunken racism and misogyny.

    And not having to bite my tongue every time someone said something racist/misogynist/homophobic.

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1273 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark, in reply to Emma Hart,

    The definition of friends, for me, has always been succour.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3121 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard,

    Now you have me wondering whether I missed out. Until the age of seven, my extended family were in different cities and we only saw them a few times a year. After the age of seven, they were in a different hemisphere, and I saw them at most twice more. I don't know the names of my aunts and uncles, nor even how many cousins I have.

    I don't have a feeling of having lacked anything, which may have something to do with not forming the intense for-better-or-worse relationships that seem to be more common with biological family. And I'm trying to think, but I don't recall having any other adults or slightly older children with whom I had that sort of quasi-whanau relationship. I can remember teachers and friends-of-the-family who provided a warm mentoring role, but none of the "get drunk and tell bawdy stories" role that many of you mention.

    Which of course explains how I grew up so prudish and well-behaved.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1039 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard, in reply to Jackie Clark,

    Yes, the best friends always give good succour.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1039 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Jackie Clark,

    one born every minute :)

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16280 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Tom Beard,

    Yes, the best friends always give good succour.

    And that example is pretty much my definition of friendship.

    One of my Canadian friends, who's been having some Serious Issues in her relationship lately, recently told me, "No matter how bad it gets, you can always make me laugh." That's my job. I'm not good with sympathy, I seldom have constructive advice or practical help I can offer, but if you want to be distracted? I'm up for it.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4328 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark, in reply to Emma Hart,

    That's what succour is, though. The rendering of assistance. And if that happens to be laughter, all to the good.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3121 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Emma Hart,

    I seldom have constructive advice or practical help

    I always have advice and practical help ... it took me years to learn to stop er well reduce my inclination to give such advice.

    Turns out most times my sympathy is far more valuable - that and I'm an excellent hugger.

    As for Aunties, nope all of them were in The Netherlands as is true for most 1st generation dutch/kiwis. For me it was the circle of friends, mine and my parents, at the nudist club where we spent every summer.

    I think though that there is a difference between relatives and those close family friends. You have to tolerate the relatives, with all their weaknesses and racism and sexism ... they are still of your blood and part of your life even if they are not close.

    But the friends, are friends because they have similar ideologies and humour and joie de vivre. They are people like you and who like you. Having those people nearby to influence and help your children grow, what more could you hope for from a friend.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3221 posts Report Reply

  • Isabel Hitchings,

    The guiding principle my mother lives by (and which she has successfully passed on) is to never, ever let the truth get in the way of a good story.

    My family is tiny - there's just my parents and I in New Zealand. I've met a fair few of the foreign rellies (not that there are or ever were that many of them) but not many of them more than once or twice. My partner has a larger extended family in NZ but he has very little to do with them. He had a sister but she died childless a couple of years back so, apart from a couple of step cousins, my two kids are all there are in their generation.

    My parents have done a great job of finding NewZealand family and I grew up surrounded by interesting people and scurrilous stories. I fear I'm not doing as well for my kids - I don't have many friends of long standing and those I do have I tend to see on rare nights out without my family. I think they need to hear those stories that show that their parents once had lives that were separate from them.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 703 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Isabel Hitchings,

    I think they need to hear those stories that show that their parents once had lives that were separate from them.

    Is, this is pretty much what my mother said (in a rare moment of Bitchy) about my cousin's children a few years ago: that they needed to know that their mother'd had a life before they were born. That she was a person independent of being a parent. I was in my teens before I grasped this about my own mother, and started thinking of her as someone who'd been a student, who'd had issues with her own parents, who'd drunk and dated and fallen in love. And my aunties were an integral part of that realisation.

    What I think about my own children is that perhaps I should take them aside and caution them that their mother wasn't quite as big a slapper as her friends' Edited Highlights Reel sometimes makes it sound.

    Now you have me wondering whether I missed out.

    I keep thinking about this. And I hope I haven't sounded prescriptive. Surely, one can appreciate having had something without feeling that everyone else needs to have it too.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4328 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Emma Hart,

    Surely, one can appreciate having had something without feeling that everyone else needs to have it too.

    E tika. Indeed.

    But trying to understand how the arms of a large loving group - present *and* past- which are ambient and embracing - *arnt* there for all other people is - a bit difficult.

    I know it is a fact for a huge number of people-

    but, those arms are,for me & mine, our continuity, and our deep ongoing responsibility...

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark, in reply to Islander,

    I think that as long as a family is loving, it doesn't matter the size. Like anything in life, what we have experienced is what we're used to, and anything else takes getting used to. My husband came from a very small family, and we don't see any of them at all anymore. When he spent his first Xmas at my mum and dad's house, it was a bit of a culture shock, to say the least. He thought that our practice of arguing about politics, was particularly offensive - everybody yelling at each other and nobody listening. I can't say I'm fond of it anymore, mind. The good thing about everybody getting older and tireder is that no-one's much interested in yelling and screaming as much as they were.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3121 posts Report Reply

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