3 weeks back, I was up in Birmingham celebrating Independence Day. In a break from tradition, my father opted to not host the festivities in honor of our nation’s declaration of independence from British rule. However, the next day—July 5th—he had a small gathering to grill some of the leftover meat that wasn’t used in the cookout the night before. I was hanging out on the deck—the same one where I was drenched with ice cold water last month—when I saw a car pull into the driveway. I didn’t really pay it any mind as I figured it was just another one of my father’s friends or maybe one of my stepmother’s kids. But then I heard my father, who was on the level below, say “is that Kim”. Instantly, I went down to see if it was the Kim I thought it was. Indeed, it was my aunt Kim. It was the first time I had seen her in my adult life…actually, the first time I had seen her in more than half of my life overall. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: my Auntie Kimmy.
How I first came across this moment? Of course I don’t remember exactly when I first met Auntie Kimmy—my affectionate name for her—but I’m reasonably certain it was within my first few days of life in October-November 1984. Of all of the people in my family on my father’s side, my mother was closest with her…at least that’s the way I’ve heard it over the years. Even though my mother had 2 sisters of her own, I think she felt Kim was more of a sister than they were. Their relationship, their bond was that close. It seems that way, at least…from all of the photos I saw in my mom’s ancient photo book and even the above-referenced photo. My first real recollection of Auntie Kimmy was maybe when I was 3. My mother, who lived with my great-grandmother at the time, often took me over to my paternal grandmother’s home, which is where Auntie Kimmy lived. Hmmm…now that I think about it, the fact that my mom lived with her grandmother and my aunt was still living with her mother is probably the reason why I was really close with my maternal great-grandmother and my paternal grandmother: I was always around them. Anyway, I met Auntie Kimmy when I was just a chip off the ol’ block.
What it meant to me then? Back then—and we’re talking late 80s and very early 90s—I always enjoyed my time with Aunt Kimmy. I do remember that whenever she babysat me, I was always able to get a Happy Meal from McDonalds. Half of my toy collection as a toddler was probably a result of that. I remember her always being gentle with me…even when I probably deserved a whooping. I remember her sending me to the corner a couple of times but she’d always be there to comfort me when I cried about it. Most of all, I remember the joy I always had being around her. Whenever I was with my mother and we’d see her on the street or she was in the living room when my grandmother greeted me at the door, I’d always run and hug her, saying “Auntie Kimmy”.
What it means to me now? Reflecting on those innocent childhood moments and thinking about what it all means to me now, as a 29-year-old man, is actually pretty heartbreaking. About 17 years back, when I was just 12, something happened between my paternal aunts and uncles. There was some major disagreement and it resulted in Auntie Kimmy essentially disappearing. I was much too young to understand at the time but my wisdom of today says it was probably a money issue…perhaps money left behind by my paternal grandparents. At that time, however, I was a growing boy and my visits with Auntie Kimmy were less and less frequent even before the fallout. When I did notice that I hadn’t been seeing or hearing from her, I inquired about it with my father and he said that nobody had seen or heard from her in a couple of years. Those couple of years turned into a very, very long time. She was essentially my favorite aunt and she missed so much of my life. Of course, I had other aunts and uncles that I loved and whom loved me but it was different with Auntie Kimmy. Seeing her in live person 3 weeks back for the first time this millennium was bittersweet. Of course, I quickly made my way to her and hugged her just like I did when I was 4. That was the kid in me, which apparently never forgot her. However, there was the much older part of me, who saw her as a stranger. She was more Kimberly than Auntie Kimmy. It’s that part of me that wonders if I can ever regain the lost relationship with her. Either way, it was good to see her.