Sunday 6 November 2022
A week of fantastic news for our family. My mum’s post-surgery histology report is positive. Her cancer has not spread, which is a terrific relief and means radiotherapy, not chemotherapy. And one of my niece’s has her first baby, a beautiful little boy. I set out to find a gift and am happily strolling around the aisles of new-born fashion; cosy baby-grows, adorable fleecy pram-suits, little dungarees… when my phone pings. It’s my eldest child…
” Congratulation Great-Aunt Becky!”
Great-Aunt Becky.. well wrap me up in woollen shawl and lace me into a pair of stout shoes … I sound positively ancient!
Yes into my head pops the image of ‘great-aunt Lucy‘, Paddington Bear’s aged guardian from ‘Darkest Peru!’
To my dismay, when I reacquaint myself with the writings of dear Michael Bond, it transpires that lovely Lucy, with her fading fur, felt hat and wicker basket, is only a regular aunt, an entire generation younger than my new familial role. Indeed, mention of great-aunts of any kind, in our literary annals is notably sparse and, I now discover that aunts themselves … well to put it mildly have a bit of an image problem.
Aunt ‘Em, from the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the once pretty young wife now ‘grayed‘ by her tough life on the Kansas farm. The villainous Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge from James and the Giant Peach, and the cruel Mrs Reed, aunt to Jane Eyre who opens the novel with the shocking scenes of the small orphaned girls locked up in the mysterious Red Room after defending herself against her bullying cousin.
Gracious… maybe literature was the wrong direction to look to for inspiration. After all, idyllic family units rarely rear children suited to the kind of adventures that heroes such as, Paddington, Dorothy, James and Jane must face to make the plot a winner.
And a label such as ‘Great-Aunt’ does not have to define us! Why, I recall, my chest modestly puffed out with pride, sporting a new green top, I was recently described as ‘stylish’ and ‘the cool mum‘ by my daughter’s flatmates. On the other hand, I tell my niece, I am quite happy for our wonderful new arrival just to refer to me as ‘Becky’!