Written by Juliette Burton

Voices

Auntie’s Day

They have it in America – well of course they do (26 July) – but Juliette Burton would like us to celebrate aunts in the UK. And not just because she is one.

Aunt they great? Selma and Patty Bouvier with niece Lisa Simpson. Image: 20th Television.

I want to put forward the case to begin an Auntie’s Day over here. And before you start tweeting, “Well this is all very well and good, but when’s it going to be Uncle’s Day?” I’m sure someone is fighting that fight and there are bridges to be built between both.

I’m speaking from experience, and my experience is of both being an auntie and having some damn fantastic ones too.

Mums get Mothering Sunday, dads get Father’s Day – and of course that’s a great thing (for most people). Mums and dads put up with all kind of crap; it’s nice that on one out of every 365 days they get breakfast in bed and a card from Clintons. Or Moonpig. Or Funky-ruddy-Pigeon.

But what about aunties?

This year, I decided I was going to give one aunt, my closest, a Mother’s Day card. Not because “she’s like a mother to me” – she’s not; I’ve got one of those, and a wonderful one at that. No. It’s because she’s a fabulous auntie. And now I’m getting older I’ve started to observe how important that is.

My friends are all married and having babies; I am not and have not. My sister’s sons are all teenagers who call her “Mum”; I am simply “Auntie”. And I’m starting to appreciate the decision some women make to focus on things other than having kids while still being great aunties.

“Aunties are not celebrated enough. They are important: there for you; an escape; a loving support without the worry and pressure of a mum or dad.”

I’m lucky to have a few aunties I admire – all for different reasons. But this particular aunt, the recipient of the Auntie’s Day card, chose not to marry, like me. She hasn’t had kids, like me. She didn’t marry a farmer, like all her sisters and mine. Nope, she set up her own farm. She’s funny. She’s spontaneous.

My aunt is pretty special. She used to babysit me frequently. She calls me “petal” and “little one”. She, like me, is the youngest. And youthful.

She made different life choices to her sisters. She drinks wine. I drink wine. Mum and Dad don’t drink wine. Because I’ve drunk it all.

She’s strong. She doesn’t take shit from men; she works alongside them. She wears low-cut tops. I wear short skirts. Clothing some people in the family deem inappropriate for our age.

She laughs. She’s spritely and mischievous. She’s fun and silly. She’s generous and warm. She’s truly beautiful because of that. We all have the same eyes and cheekbones. One day when I was 18 she picked me up after I’d had a huge row with my dad. I told her secrets no one else in the family knew. She never told.

She’s free-spirited and adventurous. When I first toured Australia she told me all the places on the Great Ocean Road I should visit when I drove from Adelaide to Melbourne. When I first toured in New Zealand she drove me to the airport and lent me her guide books, enthusing about the Maori culture. When it felt like I should be pinned down she encouraged me fly.

Roseanne‘s Darlene and Becky with aunt Jackie. Photo: ABC.

We’ve been on holiday together. We ate tapas and drank more wine. She’s everything I want to be. She’s everything I hope I am.

The day before Mother’s Day I learned that my aunt has been diagnosed with stage three pancreatic cancer. She’s been given 18 months to live.

She has told me to be brave. And I want to be. Because I want to be just like her.

I’m lucky that my therapist is an auntie too. And we’re talking a lot about this in my sessions. She too knows the connection you can have with the child of your sibling; motherly but sisterly too. A loving friendship.

Aunties are not celebrated enough. They are important: there for you; an escape; a loving support without the worry and pressure of a mum or dad. I’m so incredibly proud of my nephews without worrying too much about them. I know my nephews are going to be just fine in life, because I see the strength my sister has taught.

But I’ll still always be there for them, even beyond the age where they still want cuddles. All four of them can now pick me up, the eldest with only one arm.

From the day they were born, tiny little hairless adorable bundles that they were, to the day I say my final goodbye, I’ll be there for them. Even in the background, at a distance, watching them fly. My door and arms will always be open.

I hope I can be good to them. And if I come even close, I learned that from my aunt.

@JulietteBurton

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Written by Juliette Burton

Juliette Burton is a docu-comedian, actor, writer, thinker, dreamer, doer and person. She has a history of mental health problems and loves The Muppets. These two things are in no way linked.