Aunties are like extra arms, eyes, minds and hearts when I need them. By aunties, I don’t mean my mom or dad’s sisters, I mean the women who became aunties to Ziya when I became her mother. Those who became what anthropologists call ‘fictive kin’, a term that recognises that vital, necessary and historically significant Caribbean tradition of forming connections across different races, classes, nationalities and sexualities. This is the same tradition that gave enslaved Africans the solidarities needed to sustain themselves and their resistance. It’s the same tradition that created boat brothers or jahaji bhai. These women, these aunties, are like jahaji bahen, they’ve become ‘like family’ through the relations we have formed at this juncture in our crossings.
Aunties accompany you on errands to Gopaul Lands in Marabella even though they live in Maraval. They put their pots on the floor for your baby to play with when she comes over. They make it their business to enable you to make it to the beach, because this is the one thing you really love and the one thing you want your child to have the chance to love too. Aunties help you wash dishes when they come over even if they don’t have to. They check in with you daily just to make sure that you are still sane, standing and surviving. They look forward to spending time with your baby, implicitly knowing that you want others to see, as you do, how wonderful she is. Aunties are there for you, by phone, with pancakes, taking pictures, filling in with energy you don’t have, sometimes to enable you to just be yourself and sometimes to enable you to be a good mother. Aunties drive you through the heights of Paramin, just so your baby could dance to parang and give her dollar to Blue Devils who magically appeared even though it’s July.
Aunties help you grow and become a better person simply by making the effort to be there. They are not perfect. They bring both joys and challenges to your life as they grow too. Aunties, friends who are like family, women without whom you could not be the woman and mother you want to be, sistren who make you laugh and insist you need a night out. I feel like I could hardly manage the weekend that follows a manic week without them.
Weekends have become much more important to me than they used to be. Before Ziya, I’d often work on my writing or answer emails on a weekend, but whatever the costs to my career, I’ve decided that weekends are now Ziya’s time. Aunties enable me to make that happen. They are official and unofficial godmothers, able to work miracles like fairy godmothers, but with love instead of wands. They make long car rides about the experience and the journey, they make Maracas in the rain become fun and their extra attention makes all kinds of dangerous household moments safe. They enable a hard-working, chronically tired mom to get out of the house, get some tea, get a sea-bath and get a break. Aunties, thank Goddess for you and thank you.