Aunt Kathy has always been my “cool” aunt. She is a self-made woman who dropped out of college after the first semester. She traveled for a couple years sleeping on different floors and hammocks along the way. Somehow Kathy went all the way to running her own clothing line for children. She didn’t go by the book and I admired her for that.
A few summers ago I took a road trip with my friend Sophie to the coast. One of our stops was Aunt Kathy’s Manhattan office apartment. The office had a wall covered in precisely aligned children’s socks and was in the same building where they tape the fashion design show, “Project Runway”. I thought this was a silly selling point, but I do find myself bringing it up in conversations here and there.
Another trip out east included Aunt Kathy taking my parents and me to a swanky restaurant where we found ourselves a bit awestruck when we saw the actor from the Allstate commercials. Kathy was tickled by this and kept saying things like “you don’t see these sorts of things back home, do you?” She was the epitome of a savvy woman.
As a child I never understood why my dad and Aunt Kathy didn’t always get along. I thought it was because my dad was the eldest child, and Kathy was the youngest. As the years passed I realized why my dad and other people in our family often shake their heads about Kathy.
Not until I became older did I realize that Aunt Kathy, of course, was human and had some shortcomings in her day. This was brought to a head when my grandmother, Aunt Kathy’s and my father’s mother, died last year. Grandma had been failing for about four years and it was best that she finally got to rest. She had lived a full life of 90-some-years, but the last couple years she was unable to recognize her grown children. My father and his other siblings wanted a small service for the funeral, but Kathy refused. She learned how to do everything big and she didn’t understand why her mother’s funeral had to be any different. This entailed bickering between siblings, more expenses, and longer hours of service for someone whose close friends had already passed.
The idolizing days of Aunt Kathy have faded over the years. I still love her for all that she is, the love she shows me, and the exciting places and people she has exposed me to. I realize, however, that I will never be like Kathy. I do not praise the limelight or those who seek it. I can only appreciate what it stands for from a distance. The idea of Aunt Kathy is fun and exciting, but it is not what I am about or what I intend to be the future. I now understand that role models are great to have as long as knowing the ones we idolize don’t overshadow knowing ourselves.
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