Aunt Ann is the family glue.
She’s the mortar that distinguishes a strong brick wall from a pile of bricks.
She’s the icing on the cake that keeps the layers from slipping all over the place.
If you’re wondering what everyone in the extended family is up to, you could call each of them. Or you could call Aunt Ann, who has always already talked to everybody.
Every family, no matter how good, becomes better when it has a resident Aunt Ann.
To look at her, you’d think she’s the ultimate party planner, quick to offer her home for any gathering. Quick to offer to prepare any fixings that might liven up a gathering.
I think it’s not really the preparing for the party that delights her. It’s the gathering itself. The people spending time with people.
Aunt Ann is my sister-in-law. In addition to being a people person, she’s a former biology teacher, and she likes animals. But that’s equivalent to saying Rembrandt liked to do some sketches.
Ann is hard-core, and if you’re a mammal, reptile, or fish, she’s pretty much the best friend you could ever hope to have.
She’s not so much into giant, jungle-type, exotic creatures. She favors reasonable, pet-sized things, including creatures you might find in your backyard, at the park, or in a nearby creek. Since she was a little girl she’s had a whole parade of cats. Since I’ve been married to her brother, her family has had three beloved dogs. Also a smattering of gerbils and guinea pigs.
But what really sets Ann apart is the menagerie of woodland creatures that have taken up residence at her home, either temporarily or permanently, in various cages, manmade ponds, terrariums, tanks, and aquariums. She has had eels, turtles, fish, lizards, crawfish and toads.
When one of her turtles was ailing, she took it to the vet and spent the next gosh knows how many days giving this creature daily injections. (Where do you stick a turtle, you might ask, what with all that shell and what not? Well, you stick it in right beside the leg where there’s a break in the shell.)
One Easter morning we found a salamander (black, with lots of Easter-egg-shaped yellow spots) clinging to life near our house. We took him to Aunt Ann’s house (yes, she was doing Easter dinner) and in no time at all she had looked the little guy up in one of her wildlife guides, found out who he was, where he liked to live and what he liked to eat. He took up residence in her little pond out back, looking quite comfortable by the time we were eating our blueberry pie.
Ann’s son Robert, who knows his mom as well as anyone, astutely commented in the midst of all the dinner/reptile shenanigans “Nothing says Easter like a salamander.”
We love you, Aunt Ann.