Do you have a sibling? Do you ever wish you could get back at them for all the damage they did to you (both mentally and physically) while you were growing up? You don’t want to do anything horrible, of course, just give them some lasting token of the childish emotions you can’t let go of?
I’ve got an idea. You know that terrible nickname you gave your brother or sister when they were younger that still embarrasses them to this day? Teach your kids to call them that.
Believe me. I’ve got an Aunt Tuna.
Yeah, you read that right. My mom grew up calling her sister Tuna after a mysterious incident involving a cheerleading uniform that both of them still laugh about but refuse to retell. My aunt has a real name that sounds nothing like Tuna, but I only learned that when I was about ten years old. It still weirds me out when other people use her real name. My mom calls her Tuna. My brother and I call her Aunt Tuna. My step dad calls her Tuna. You get the point.
Recently, I asked my mom if she had a bit of a “gotcha” moment the first time one of us said the words “Aunt Tuna,” as if this was some type of retribution for all those years of annoyance and frustration her younger sister put her through. (Can you tell I’m the older sibling, too?) She thought about it for a minute and then said, “I’ve always called her Tuna. I can’t imagine calling her anything else. So why would I teach you guys to?” I suddenly wished my younger self had come up with a better nickname for my little brother than “Bud.”
In early December, we went to Tennessee to visit Aunt Tuna on her farm in the mountains. I hadn’t been there in ten years, so it was interesting to see how many things were different and how many were exactly the same. She has the same horses but not the cows; she lost three dogs but got a puppy and a new cat. The house was just like we left it, although I had grown so it seemed to have shrunk. It was also the first time I could remember being there in the winter. There’s something fascinating to me about frozen mud and kudzu vines that survive the frost. These are not winter concepts I am familiar with.
Last but not least, my mom sent me this photo of us on a hike. From left: my brother, me, my mom, Aunt Tuna (notice the dress with leggings and red rubber boots. Always a fashion plate – even when the rest of us are bundled like the kid from A Christmas Story, add hiking boots).