National Aunt and Uncle Day is on Tuesday. It’s not quite on par with Mother’s Day or Father’s Day as far as holidays go. It’s bad that it’s not even as well observed as National Hot Dog Eating Day.
I think it sad that, as a culture, we tend not to acknowledge the significant role such people may play in our lives as someone who immensely benefited from a warm and intimate relationship with my aunt and uncle.
Honor thy aunts and uncles
Nobody is certain of the origin of National Aunt and Uncle’s Day. Despite the fact that I was unable to locate any cards for it on the Hallmark website, my cynical side conjectured that it had been invented by a greeting card manufacturer.
On TV shows and in movies, for example, aunts and uncles have long been honored. In popular culture, aunts are frequently shown as loving and kind, such as Aunt Bee in the vintage “Andy Griffith Show” or Aunt May in “Spider-Man.”
Uncles are sometimes presented as kind yet odd; Uncle Fester was in “The Addams Family,” and Uncle Leo was in “Seinfeld.” On the other hand, Uncle Junior from “The Sopranos” slapped his nephew Tony without giving it a second thought.
In general, aunts and uncles are viewed as enjoyable relatives, much like grandparents. They have the luxury of dropping by, indulging their nieces and nephews with pricey gifts, tolerating behavior that parents would never approve of, and then leaving, leaving it to the parents to repair the harm.
A kid can use this knowledge to their advantage when trying to get their way with their parents or talk themselves out of sticky situations. Aunts and uncles are also the guardians of the great secrets about what a parent was like while they were growing up.
The fact that Alba and Danny were our aunt and uncle was a blessing for my sister and me. Danny, Alba’s spouse, was our mother’s older sibling who was unable to have children of her own.
We soon adopted her as our second mother. She substituted for my mother by giving us baths and escorting us to the playground to let off steam. She spent many hours allowing us to triumph in games of Scrabble, Monopoly, and Go Fish.
Alba, a skilled seamstress, worked on shortening my new pants as I grew taller for years by first hemming them when they were too long. She also created my G.I. Joe a tent and sleeping bag, as well as ostentatious clothes for my sister’s doll.
She and my uncle would emerge inexplicably after supper on summer nights to surprise us with Italian ices. Along with them, we took several summer vacations in the Catskills.
Danny stood a svelte 5-foot-4. He had a rubbery, continuous smile on his face, which he used to playfully insert double entendres into discussions.
He was a decorated World War II and Korean War veteran. His nose, which resembled that of a prize boxer, was huge and bulbous.
A cast of Danny’s nose was previously made by his dentist using the same material that was used to produce an impression of a patient’s mouth. Danny was smitten.
Danny, a professional bartender (he preferred the term “mixologist”), spent years working in posh Manhattan nightclubs, exploiting his pleasant demeanor to entice huge tips from the well-heeled.
He often recalled how, as one of 12 children born into poverty in Albany, he used to purposefully get himself jailed on Thanksgiving in order to assure a turkey feast.
Danny never lost sight of his origins. He persuaded his clients to contribute to his Thanksgiving fund for years, which he used to purchase turkeys for deserving families.
Danny and Alba gave more than they could afford. They paid for my piano lessons when I was younger. To wear to a high school dance, they purchased me my first (and, mercifully, only) leisure suit.
They handed me money (equivalent to at least a week of Danny’s wage) when I said I wanted to write jokes for television shows so I could sign up for a comedy writer’s correspondence course.
After 55 years of marriage to Danny, Alba passed away in 2005. Danny left me explicit instructions when he returned 11 years later, asking that I place a tip jar that he constructed next to his casket.
We raised $500 during his one-day viewing, and he told me to donate it to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. A good way to leave things.
Both times in our lives, my sister and I won the lotto. both times with our aunt and uncle and once with our dad. The four are currently interred side by side on a Staten Island hill.
Our childhoods were blessed by Alba and Danny, who gave us wonderful memories that we still cherish today. Through their generosity, love, and leadership, they assisted us in becoming adults.
So here’s to Alba and Danny as well as to all aunts and uncles. Please bow. Your day has come.