Marquita Griffin

We’re the aunts and uncles now.

That’s the text my cousin sent me after sharing photos of his toddler being a toddler. Then he sent another photo of his toddler-aged nephew, who is growing like a batch of weeds during the summer following a good rain.

And by the way, my cousin texts me in conclusion, his kid is crawling on the floor rubbing against him and meowing like a cat, presumably because of the little feline his kid sees at our grandmother’s house.

“There’s that imagination,” I responded, reminding him of the benefits (and fun) of activating a kid’s imagination.

What feels like eons ago, when life was saner, slower, and more reasonable, my cousin and I would discuss the world’s wonders over cups of coffee at my kitchen table.

Our conversations used to begin with questions: Why am I experiencing this problem or issue? How do I get out of this rut? What is the meaning of our existence?!

But as the years quickly passed and we slowly aged, we chil’ren became the grown folks.

My brother, cousins, and I are finally at the level of having grown folks’ business (perspectives and responsibilities) now.

Our conversations aren’t typically initiated by questions anymore.

When we talk these days, we sit down with solutions on the tip of our tongues.

“Let me tell you what you need to do ...” or “Let me tell you what I just figured out ...” is how most of our conversations start.

We still go to our parents and elders for help, but more and more, we’d rather converse with them and mesh our understandings with theirs.

Our conversations circle the longevity and quality of things, equity, investments, and retirement funds.

Awareness of the mental, physical, and emotional health of our children and ourselves is at the forefront of our minds.

And that wisdom bestowed upon us as children has been coming into play more.

Growing up, our family epitomized The Village.

Six adults and over a dozen kids were interacting in the same space several times a week.

Our parents’ siblings — our aunts, and uncles — in one way or another, all had a hand in our upbringing.

I’m often credited with being wise beyond my years, but the credit belongs to them.

When I speak, what you hear is a mixture of wisdom they handed to me meshed with my own experiences.

There is a component of Black culture (and it may well exist in other cultures) that encourages influential black men and women to assume the role of “Uncle” or “Aunty” for the community as a whole.

These are the stranger souls who delicately or roughly impart life knowledge about how to best cook a particular vegetable, pay down debt, reroute a wayward child or save, maintain and spice up your marriage.

These are the men and women who can explain to you why it would be pointless to worry over the spilled-milk moments of life, and they can rattle off home remedies and life hacks, that work, save you time, and money.

They’re the grilling kings and recipe queens and always have the best one-liners to make you think about the choice you’re about to make.

They’re also the men and women who lifted our chins when we look down and taught us how to swap tears for laughter and bitterness for strength.

Even if you don’t indicate your need for it, they know when you need an embrace, kiss, a hot plate of comfort food, or other expressions of love.

The Aunts and Uncles are also the ones who will unapologetically let you know when you’re out of line because they know time is of the essence, and they want to help you avoid the pitfalls of life that tripped them.

They hold secrets and history, as well as the keys to building the future.

So if you see me walking a bit differently these days, don’t mind me. I’m just taking my role of Aunt (in a literal and figurative sense) seriously and I need all the practice I can get.

I have big rather large shoes to fill.

Reach Marquita Griffin at mgriffin@fbherald.com.

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