May 23, 2011 by Marj Hatzell
On my mother’s side of the family, it’s tradition for my aunt to make an afghan for the bride-to-be. It’s a rite of passage, really. To us it kind of symbolizes that we’re part of the club. The married ladies, if you will. And Aunt Kathy would always pick colors she heard we liked. Flyers fan like my brother’s wife? You get orange and black. Penn State Grad? Blue and white. She put tons of effort into them and made every stitch with love and care, I can tell you that. They are quite large, perfect for couch cuddles and they are heavier weighted, which makes ’em awesome when you are, say, hung over on the couch for two days from the party at your brother’s wedding? Not that I have any experience with that. Certainly not this past weekend or anything. Ahem.
Anyways, the afghan. We were at my brother’s reception this weekend and friends and family were trickling in. My favorite aunt on my mom’s side came in and rushed up to me and gave me the biggest, warmest hug and said, “And don’t let me forget. I have something for you!” Which I thought was sweet, because, hello! Not my wedding! So I thought, you know, the whole family knows I struggle a bit with Bugaboo and whatnot and she was being nice and bringing me something inspirational. And she has a niece on her husband’s side of the family with autism so I guess you could say there is a bond there. But! Favorite aunt! Brought me something and it wasn’t even my wedding!
Sorry if anyone is jealous. It’s true. I have early memories of doing things like finger painting her basement green, pouring perfume down her heat vents and sniffing up large quantities of black pepper at family barbecues. Such a well-behaved child! And she didn’t strangle me! She bought us our first Atari when it first came out. She paid for my High School tuition when my parents couldn’t afford it and thought I’d have to go (GASP) to public school instead of Catholic school. That same aunt also owns places down the shore, including bike shops, where I have many fond memories of riding up and down the Wildwood board walks, wind in our faces, salt water spraying on our tongues. Favorite Aunt.
Where was I? Right. Wedding. Afghan. I’ma gettin’ there!
Anyways, so she makes these afghans. And everyone gets one. Except, I’ll be married this fall for fifteen years and I never got one. Mostly because we had a teeny-tiny wedding and only our sibs and parents came and we didn’t have the big to-do or anything so I missed out on my chance for an afghan. I’m sure if she had gotten an invitation she would have started one and mailed it anyways, she’s that awesome. But for some reason it fell through the cracks and I never thought twice about it. Until recently. So here we are, fifteen years later, I casually mentioned to my mom a few months ago (at my new sister-in-laws shower, methinks) that no, I did not in fact have one of THE AFGHANS. My mother was flabbergasted. And that was the end of that.
So I thought.
So when dinner was over and dancing started, Aunt Kathy rushed over with a big and a big smile and I said, “What’s this?” Because I was expecting rosary beads or a novena or something and there was this big gift bag. And she smiled and said, “You KNOW.” And instantly I had tears in my eyes. I was embarrassed I mentioned it to my mother (not realizing she’d call her sister and tell her!). I was excited to have one. I was humbled that she kindly thought of me. And I felt doubly blessed. Not just because I have THE AFGHAN. But because my loving aunt, who I only see once or twice a year, loves me enough to take time out of her day to make one for me. Because it told me that my family stands behind me, no matter what. That afghan represents my mother’s family (And it is large. Like, 8 aunts/uncles, 32 first cousins on that side and all of our children make about 42 so far? I think?). And when I wrapped it around myself yesterday I felt like my whole family was wrapping their arms around me in support. We may be loud, large and obnoxious. We may have “issues” and we may be strange. We may not be the coolest, or the wealthiest. But we’re family. And we have each other.
Funny how a simple, homemade blanket can be so much more.