On Birthdays and Aunts and Life

August is a big birthday month for us. Each date that we celebrate is set apart on the calendar and in the heart.

Last Thursday, August 9, our youngest turned 18- legal in the eyes of the law.

Nostalgia moves in like thick fog as I think about that day 18 years ago, an August day in Cairo, Egypt when I went into labor 2 weeks early. I gave birth five hours later to my youngest and my tallest. His older sister, on hearing it was a boy said: “oh dawn it — I wanted a sistuh! Now he’ll have a boy face”.

And he did, and he does. In the past year he has gone from boy to man physically and spiritually and it is a common sight to see him on the couch reading Kierkegaard’s A Sickness Unto Death or other literature that feeds his mind and moves his soul.

Just one day later my middle child, Micah, turned 25. He is married and lives in California with a lovely wife and a dog named Wilbur (who we affectionately term our “grand puppy”). He is thriving in the film industry in Hollywood, seeking to live a life of integrity in a cut throat industry and we are proud.

20130812-082525.jpgAnd this past weekend saw us at a family gathering to celebrate my Aunt Ruth. Aunt Ruth turned 90 years old this past April, and though belated, it was a perfect occasion to bring extended family together to celebrate a remarkable woman. Indeed, a remarkable family. We came to Rochester, New York from as far as Oregon and as close as Rochester. We came with a lot of life behind us: births, weddings, and deaths. My cousin Barbara, beloved by all who knew her, died just days before the gathering.

I wrote these words to my Aunt Ruth this past April, and I share them with you today:

Aunt Ruth

I am rarely out of words – but today, thinking of you and your birthday, I struggle to find the words to express my delight at having you in my life.

You are my dad’s last living sister and ever since I can remember you have been a part of my life. I remember your hospitality when we would come back to the United States and visit your family, always in great big Victorian houses with bay windows. While they must have been drafty in the winter, they were magical to this niece – missionary kid growing up in Pakistan.

You have always had a brilliant, inquiring mind that took in all around you, but it is coupled with a generosity and love for people. Those two don’t always go together but in you they met a brilliant match.

You raised smart, talented children and had to face the backwards and broken world we live in when you buried your beloved Kristine far too early.

You are one of my favorite feminists – smart, loving, fun, inquiring, and not giving in to the world’s warped definition of what it means to be a woman.

And today I celebrate your 90th birthday far from you – with great expectation of an in person celebration later on this year.

I love you Aunt Ruth – God surely looks in favor on you as you walk day by day in His Grace.

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As families grow and spread their roots, it becomes more and more difficult to bring people together, to feel a part of each other’s lives and share the brilliant joy and the sometimes indescribable pain that makes up life.

Today as I reflect on family I realize how important it is to express love, to come together when possible, to support each other when life gets stormy and forgive each other when the inevitable conflicts of personalities and opinions start to choke out compassion and love.

But there’s more. For coming together is a chance to relay family history and stories, to look at generations past and remember that God is faithful. My cousin Bruce opened my Aunt’s celebration with words from Psalm 78 and though I’ve heard this Psalm before, the words felt fresh and strong, filled with promise:

I will utter hidden things, things from of old—things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us. We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. (verses 2b-5)

So we came together to celebrate an Aunt, and Life, and God’s faithfulness to generations. To celebrate with sacred and silly and definitely with cake.

Readers – today I’m excited to begin a new link specific to Mondays. Stacy Rushton, an expat, a journalist, and an amazing cook has become a blogging friend. She connects stories with food and provides her readers with amazing recipes. Stacy begins each week with Muffin Monday. So every week I will be linking you to a muffin recipe straight from the kitchen of Stacy through Food Lust, People Love. I know it’s late in the day but head over to see today’s recipe: Chocolate-Chip Zucchini Muffins.

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Third Culture Kid - Grew up in Pakistan, lived and worked in Pakistan and Egypt as an adult. Moved to the United States and learning to live away from curry, Urdu, Arabic and the Pyramids.

15 thoughts on “On Birthdays and Aunts and Life

  1. Marilyn: All the years I’ve known you as a speaker for CMSA—I never had any idea you were such a tremendous writer, and with such a beautiful way of telling about your life and your families. I can tell you, as you know, that it is important that our children do know who people are in our lives. My only sister and I did not ask questions when growing up, and now we are trying to “remember” people in the family. I have a box full of photos and do not know who the people are…so keep writing! Generations to come will love reading everything!

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    1. What a wonderful surprise to get this comment Mary Beth! I still have all your emails saved and think about you and your kindness and excellent organization with these conferences. I love what you said about how important it is for children to know the people in their lives, to know they belong. So true and yet easy to forget. Thanks again for interacting with this piece.

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  2. Marilyn,

    Somehow I knew you would write about my mother! The past couple months have been full of activities in anticipation of this past weekend. Mom and Dad are staying one last night as well as our cousin Sandra who will be flying home to Oregon tomorrow. I know all the phone calls, lists,shopping trips, online purchases,email, computer searches, music composition and practices, harried attempts to find accommodations were worth it when I saw it all come together successfully.

    Thank you everyone in the family just for being you, and Thank you God for allowing me to be part of such an amazing family,

    your Cousin, Karen

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    1. You did an amazing, amazing job Karen – thank you for your work in bringing all this together. And I echo your last sentence! Wish I had more time to chat with you over the weekend!

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  3. On the plane from Cologne to Berlin I was next to a woman and a young lady with special needs. The woman was an aunt who had travelled to fetch her niece to stay for a week. She was one of two “favourite Aunts”!

    I said that everyone should have a favourite Aunt. and that mine had lived till she was 103 and a half, having been born in 1896. .

    Your Aunt Ruth sounds and looks wonderful . May she enjoy many more years of blessing others and being blessed!

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    1. Thanks so much Wilma – she is as sharp as a tack I think they say! Her memory and engagement are amazing. I can only hope to be that with it when I am her age (should I live that long)

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  4. What a lovely tribute to your beautiful aunt, Marilyn! I love that she is dressed in bright, cheerful pink to match her cake. And love your justified pride in your boys. Happy birthday to them all!

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    1. You know – I never asked her if that was her favorite color but I’m guessing it may be. There was a lot of brilliant pink that night!! Thanks Stacy and thanks also for letting me link the muffins. :) Next week I plan to put it at the top of the page and re-introduced the link.

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  5. Well said, Marilyn! It was so great to be with you and all of our aunts, uncles, sibs, cousins, second cousins, cousins once removed, and … Aunt Ruth is the repository of who is related how, not I! And you are so right–she is a remarkable woman. I am delighted to have “Ruth” as my middle name in her honor.

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    1. Marilyn’s middle name is Ruth, too, in honor of my Mom, Ruth Kolodinski, and her Aunt Ruth. A beautiful piece, Marilyn, summarizing our weekend of celebration. Jan, so glad that you and your siblings all made it, except Barb who has truly gone Home. I thought of her several times, as well as Ruth and Russ’s Kris, specially when seeing her lovely son and daughter.

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    2. So good to see you and so good of you to take the time to come! Next big event will be something for Ralph maybe! There is something fun too about extended family. Somehow the family dynamics that can arise in smaller family settings all spread out and we all feel part of a big family tree!!

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