Michigan, the year 2002…snowing…SO cold…kind of ruined me to soccer…
About a million years ago I was 17, and I fell in love with a football player with a dark sense of humor and dimples. These are the things one does as a Senior in High School, followed by Prom, Junior Miss Pageants, Senior Skip Day, and other sweet memories we tuck away in boxes labeled, “1990”. We made quite a show of breaking up, getting back together, and other mayhem-ridden decisions one makes throughout a proper twenties. By 2002, I tucked our story away in a box labeled, “You made all the right mistakes”.
While we weren’t great at dating, we were pretty great at being an Aunt & Uncle. He had 5, my Fab Five…my precious nieces and nephews whom I adored to the ends of all time. When people say, “Did you stay together for the kids?”…well…yes…but oddly, they weren’t even ours. In fact, they had superb parents and a huge, wonderful family. He was too decent a guy to take away the only family I had at the time, and for that, I am in his debt.
Oh my GOD…we were SO YOUNG! And SKINNY! But oh-so-dumb. No really…we were straight-up ridiculous, bless our hearts. I wish I could hug their innocence.
The adventures one has as an Aunt Yori (as toddlers, “Lori” wasn’t in their wheelhouse, so I became “Aunt Yori”, whom I remain to this day); Aunts are WAY better than Moms. Aunts never make you shower or eat vegetables. They take you to week-long science camps and feed you popcorn for dinner. Aunts let you cuddle late into the night, playing games of geography and giggling. They let you put the ornaments ANYWHERE on the Christmas tree, and if the tree falls at 3 am, nearly crushing you as you sleep in front of movies? Aunts LAUGH. Aunts sneak candy into Harry Potter movies, and let you watch movies WAY-NOT-OK. (I cannot BELIEVE the stupid things I did as an Aunt). Rollerblading? Aunts are young enough to go. Muscles don’t ache when you haven’t stayed up all night with your own kids. Sleepovers on the floor? Yep…I’ve got nowhere to be tomorrow. Junk food at ball games? I’m in. Trick or treating in the snow? Let’s do this thing. We’re leaving town and the fruit is going to spoil and smell up the apartment? We should crush it on the back porch and measure how far it flies. It’s FOR SCIENCE. Don’t worry…my roommate will clean it up. (Sorry Amie! Love you! Call you later today…)
NO WAY my own daughters would EVER believe I was Aunt Yori. Aunt Yori must be a mythical creature invented in my imagination.
Ice cream for dinner at the ball game! Was this the year they convinced me “American Pie” was a cooking movie?
As the years passed, even I began to believe Aunt Yori was a myth…oh how they flew by, and my Fab 5 grew up. REALLY grew up; their own spectacular 20’s are in full-swing now. You can imagine my excitement when I received a wedding invitation! Beautiful stories I had tucked into a box were pulled out, and there they were, my reason for wanting kids of my own: Chief, Princess, Fish, Babs, and Little Mike. If not for them, I’d have foregone parenting, believing I didn’t have the skills.
I still don’t have the skills, but I have the kids; so you know. No turning back now. I lost the return receipt in the confusion of childbirth.
This young lady sent me an invite to her WEDDING! Look at her! She’s 8! She can’t get married!
I wondered if they would even remember me? 14 years is a blink to an adult, but to children? Eternity had passed. How could I convey how much they’d meant to me? I could barely breath as Greg and I packed up the car and drove the hours to Great Lake Michigan. “Breathe Yori…breathe.” Now is an important time to add I have the best husband on the planet. My friends were back in Indy building a statue in his honor while we made the trip.
When Halloweening in the snow, it’s best to dress as furry animals. All 4 year olds know this.
On the way to the wedding we got stuck on a bridge over Great Lake Michigan during a tornado warning. You can’t make this stuff up. At one point I looked over at Greg with tears in my eyes and said, “So we’re going to die inside a tornado wrapped in a mangled bridge on the way to my ex-boyfriend’s niece’s wedding. Odd twist of fate, wouldn’t you say? [Insert nervous laughter.]” We eventually got off the bridge intact, and very relieved. Then we got lost. On flooded back roads in Michigan. Have you ever been to middle-of-nowhere Michigan? I’m from the Midwest…I specialize in “middle-of-nowhere”, and no one has this act together like Michigan. It didn’t take long to realize we were going to miss the entire wedding. Better than a watery-windy death on the bridge…but I was heartbroken.
We decided to take one, last selfie on the bridge, for posterity. We’re dying! And smiling!
When we finally arrived in the downpour, the entire wedding party had been sheltering in a cabin, and we missed nothing due to the weather delay. Standing right at the door of the cabin was my friend, dimples still intact, holding an umbrella, and laughing as if not a day had passed. One hug and high-five, and no words were needed to convey that we’d turned our story into a deep respect for each others’ journey. Life can be beautifully surprising, can’t it?
The beauty of a Michigan wedding on a lake: It’s hard to describe the breeze and the mist, the green and God’s beauty. The Mother-of-the-Bride squeezed my shoulder on her way up the aisle, my sweet, sweet Jen, letting me know I was meant to be there. I walked quietly up to each one, and asked if they remembered me…and oh…the wave of relief as I realized they too, imagined me into being. Little Mike asked that I not throw him into any ceiling fans (IT WAS AN ACCIDENT!!). Luckily he weighs more at age 20 than at 4, and I was unable to lift him. I carried a small stack of photos like an old lady, but the laughter was worth the dork-gesture. I nearly carded Princess on our way to the bar, and she laughed the hardest. “Aunt Yori…I’m years past legal.” REALLY?! BECAUSE at LAST check, you barely qualified for the XL Slurpees at Sonic! Now let’s go eat waffles until we puke. (Princess and I share a waffle-problem, but we are in this thing together.)
Prettier than all the brides, EVER!!
The Bride…my beautiful, wondrous Fish, who always knew exactly who she was and where she was going. After a week of sleepovers at Aunt Yori’s, at the ripe old age of 8, we were rollerblading (and deciding on ice cream vs. hot dogs for dinner), when she yelled out, “I’m as FREE AS A FISH!” If you live on a Great Lake, that analogy makes more sense…I realize that now. So my Fish she has remained, the gorgeous creature I held on the day of her birth, and now I can say, cried over with tears of gratitude during her wedding ceremony. I should have guessed it would be the middle child who pulled my beginning and ends together and wrapped me up whole again.
She who does good hair at Age 5…
Does 5-star hair at Age 20. It’s just good math.
It was a magical wedding, and I wake up some days quite certain I dreamed the whole day. I never imagined what I meant to them…I was so busy remembering what they had meant to me. At the end of it all, Greg remarked, “This is such a great family, and Lori, they love you so, so much. I didn’t anticipate this part…their faces when they saw you.” The loving of me…these kids were the making of me. Isn’t it funny how kids raise us into adults? Without kids, we’re just big kids ourselves, forgetting our bike helmets and staying up way too late.
The beautiful bride and groom at sunset.
I’ve spent a couple of months trying to find the words. I’ve started and stopped writing more times than I let Babs do my hair. Ali-Babba.Loved.My.Hair. Not all feelings have matching words; all writers know this. Tucking my own squirts into bed last month, I picked up Jacqueline Woodson’s Newbery Honor Book “Show Way”. I stand corrected: Jacqueline Woodson always finds the words. In this one-of-a-kind story, she writes, “They loved that baby up so. Yes, they loved that baby up.”
How far will a brown banana fly when smashed with a meat tenderizer? Everywhere.
I laughed right out loud, because it was then I knew: I didn’t love those babies as up as much as they loved ME up. Oh how they loved me up so, my Fab Five. In return, I probably gave them a couple of cavities. Maybe diabetes…it’s hard to say. This much I learned: You should NOT give little kids glass bottles of root beer while in a moving car. And if they ask for a ride on your shoulders, look above you for moving ceiling fans. And if one says “Watch my dolphin dive”, you should scream “NO!!!”, and stop him, because that’s a dive with NO ARMS FORWARD. THIS will not go well. But it will make for quite a story on school picture day with all that face-skin missing. Dear Lord, I know we had good times, but how did these kids survive me?
I guess when you love big, there are bound to be mistakes mixed in with the memories. Maybe making the right mistakes was part of the plan all along.
Wisdom Comes Suddenly.