It takes a village to raise a child. In my case, I was lucky to have many mother figures in my life. Each of these phenomenal women helped to make me the mother I am today.
My mom had the strength to leave a bad relationship and start over again with only a few dollars to her name. My grandmother, ready to retire and travel the world, quit her job to help raise me. She never enjoyed the freedom that comes with sending your child of into the world. Instead, she took on the role of mother, yet again. While my mom worked to support me, grandma became my constant caregiver. There will never be a more selfless woman than my grandmother, and for this I am grateful.
It should come as no surprise that my grandmother's sisters would share some of the same traits. Since they lived a few blocks away, their house was my home away from home. When I felt that I didn't fit in, Aunt Rose helped me to iron out my rough edges. Her stories taught me the life lessons I needed in order to succeed in a world trying to hold me under its thumb. It was Aunt Rose who inspired me to put my thoughts on paper. She has been gone for almost ten years now, but her belief in me helps me to persevere even in the face of major writer's block.
Aunt Claire lived in the apartment upstairs. She treated me as if I were her own. The majority of my school vacations were spent sitting in her living room. Aunt Claire taught me about love, friendship, and the art of playing poker. By the time I was eight, I knew more about soap operas than cartoons, but I also knew how it felt to be loved unconditionally. I can't even imagine how she managed to keep a smile on her face while she played board games and Barbies with me for hours on end. She passed away over twenty years ago, but her influence in my life is still strong.
Even though she is not physically present in my life, Aunt Claire helped me to get through some of my hardest days. Her only child, a daughter, passed away at a very young age. Mother's Day would come and go without a mention. One day she found her voice during a family dinner. She stood up and said, “I am a mother too.” From that moment on, she was never overlooked again. Having endured a similar pain, losing my sons, I feel an even stronger connection to my aunt. My children existed and have worth just as Sarah existed in Aunt Claire's life. Aunt Claire taught me to enjoy my children even when we are on our 25th game of cards or 2 hours into an endless game of Monopoly. I hope I helped to heal her heart a little during those times, as she taught me to heal myself. That is the greatest gift of all.