The sacred aunt
The sacred aunt
Scott Dunlop
Do you have one of these in your family, a special family member whose role is indefinable? One of mine was my children’s Aunty Bee, their mom’s sister. Their childhood would have been massively different had they never come into contact with her. I guess we tend to picture our families as mom, dad and the children, and overlook the importance of other family members.

She was the kind of aunt who didn’t stick to some imagined rules. Her unorthodox parenting style was both passionate and delightful. A single mom, she knew how to add value to the life of her daughter, and, by default, my kids. Bee gave them mad ideas about unicorns and glitter and the joy of art, loud music and laughter. The wonderful aunt who drew sketches on her walls.

For many years it was Bee who put Christmas together. Ignoring the ways in which extended families tend to become insular, she’d be the catalyst who’d make sure that everyone would come together for a special time. Even if there were arguments and estrangements among certain individuals, her attitude was “be happy, dammit!”

In fact, that sums up this wonderful person. Despite various things conspiring to interfere with her inner peace (a glass of wine is always a fine substitute for inner peace, she would have laughed), she used the “be happy, dammit!” phrase on herself with admirable success.

My kids have their uncles- both loving relatives whose inappropriate sense of humour would be much more appreciated if they didn’t live in another country, but they grew up with Bee. Fleetwood Mac blaring from the speakers. Weekends of braais, Sunday roasts; French toast in the morning. What’s a Sunday morning breakfast without French toast? That’s her gift to them. A love for family and food.

Sadly, she passed away this weekend, but her legacy will live on, her laughter echoing as will memories of her dignity in dealing with illness.

Maybe the special person in your extended family is a family friend, an aunt, uncle or grandparent. That individual whose influence isn’t meant to replace parenting, but whose influence is so rich, deep and involved that your child’s life has a special layer on top - a sweet icing with glittery sprinkles.

If you’re really lucky, you have more than one of these people circling your immediate family. I’m fortunate to have many people who have entertained my children, answered their endless questions and helped shape their perspectives.

As a parent, I am incredibly thankful to all of them for holding up their mirrors to my children. 

To Aunty Bee; you’ll be missed more than you could ever know.

Is there a special person whose influence with your kids you enjoy? Tell us your story, and you could win a R250 voucher.

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