This weekend is my holiday weekend. It’s the time I will get to spend with my extended family and while I enjoy all of them, it will be particularly fantastic to spend time with my 2-year old niece. Ellie is awesome. She cracks me up. She plays with me. We sing songs and dance. She doesn’t care that I sing off key. It doesn’t matter to her what I’m wearing or if I held my pace during my tempo run. I love being her aunt.
Among my holiday memories is spending time with my aunt. My dad’s sister lives in North Carolina and often would return to Western New York for visits twice a year — once in the summer and once at Christmas. It is the Christmas visits I seem to remember most. She would stay with us (and we rarely had company let alone overnight company) and at least once we would go out to a “fancy” dinner to celebrate winter birthdays and the holidays. It was a Moritz family tradition. Often it included the Festival of Lights at Niagara Falls which, when you’re 12, seems like the most magical thing in the entire world.
Aunt Mary’s visits were special because they didn’t happen often. She wasn’t part of my daily life growing up. But she had a tremendous impact on me. We would see slides and hear stories about her travels, which to me seemed extensive. She did things and went places and always struck me as very elegant.
This is how I wanted my life to look. Granted, elegant will probably always elude me, but because of her I feel as if I can at least fake my way through the most upscale of places (on the rare occasion I find myself at such a venue). She modeled for me what an active, adventurous life can look like and inspired me to travel. She planted the seed that motivated me to take advantage of opportunities for trips to England, Colorado, Italy and Baja. And from each of those trips came something wonderful, meaningful and life affirming.
She does’t make visits to Western New York anymore and it’s been a few years since I’ve gotten down to North Carolina to visit her. But this time of year, she is often in my thoughts and I am terribly thankful that she is my aunt. I only hope that I can model something similar for my niece, Ellie, like Aunt Mary did for me.