Everyone gathers around the dining room table stretching across the large room with its three extra leafs. At one end is the birthday girl, all smiles as mom and dad set the cake in front of her. Three candles flicker over white icing and around the table, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents cheer, laugh, take pictures and just celebrate the little one’s special day. Behind Grandpa Dave, aunt Katie stands back a few paces, smiling quietly.
Aunt Katie, the one who brings the most gifts, piling them high. Aunt Katie who always comes alone, no uncle or cousins in tow. She never married. It is not that she did not want to. Yes, Katie is a “career woman”, though that label is less shocking than it was when she was little. Still, she had the time, but never seemed to take it. Frightened of rejection, terrified of attention, and worried that she would screw it all up, she never put any effort into finding someone to share her life with, even though it is something she has always wanted.
Her sisters-in-law have stopped trying to hook her up with their cousins and college friends. Katie is happier alone, at least that is what they believe. She does not need anyone else to define her, and in some small way that is true. Contentment has crept into her life. So is now happy, more or less, with living vicariously through her brothers and their families.
It is not so bad. It is fun most of the time. She gets to spoil her nieces and nephews rotten. When an old roommate needs time away from their busy family life she is the first one they call: Katie the free-spirited, Katie the eternally unattached. Still, sometimes that loneliness sneaks up on her, and she finds herself crying at the most inappropriate moments. Always in control, she never lets it show, shoving it down where it does not ruin someone’s wedding, graduation party or baby shower.
Today is different though. It is one of those good days. Happy that little Brianna is turning three she just sits back and enjoys the ride. Today she gets to be fun aunt Katie, and that, for now, is enough.
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