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Life’s a Beach By Shelley Murphy

By Shelley Murphy

Nowadays, it seems there’s a holiday to celebrate almost anything, including these silly occasions: National Goat Yoga Month, International Post Card Week, and World Naked Gardening Day.

I’ve grown weary of constant proclamations to rejoice at pseudo celebrations. But I must admit, one upcoming commemoration caught my eye: National Auntie’s Day. It falls this Sunday, July 25.

I stumbled upon the holiday after a recent afternoon spent with my cherished auntie. A couple weeks ago, she and her husband visited our Spanish Village by the Sea.

They traveled to join friend and fellow Laguna Beach native Tom Morey in celebrating the 50th anniversary of his invention of the Boogie Board.

Together, we enjoyed a fun gathering at T-Street alongside beachgoers and wave-riders marking the birth of the mini belly wave-riding board.

In 2009, Melanie Notkin founded Auntie’s Day to honor women and recognize modern aunthood.

Surfing Notkin’s website, I read one post that resonated with me. She writes that the fact of being an aunt (or uncle) is a given, but there is no obligation to act—unlike parenting.

Aunts are not required to involve themselves in a niece’s or nephew’s upbringing; instead, they choose to nurture and provide a positive presence in a child’s life.

Her words hit home.

On my family’s ancestral tree, my favorite branch forks from my maternal bough and bears my mom’s brother’s wife—my aunt. My uncle passed away long ago, but the bond between my auntie and me survives.

As a kid, I revered her huge hoop earrings and cool hippie style; “hippies” are what my teasing grandpa called my aunt and uncle.

My beatnik relatives were everything my family was not: they lived in a rural community, and we resided in a suburban neighborhood; they wore suede and fringe, and we dressed in patent leather and buttons; they embodied the arts, and we exemplified the sciences.

One summer, my younger sibling and I stayed with my aunt, uncle and two cousins in their beachy home atop a hill.

My most vivid memory of the visit is one sunny afternoon when we headed down the hill and into town for ice cream. With our melting cones in hand, we piled back in the car.

Soon, we rounded a corner and saw a hitchhiker. My aunt stopped the car and, after making us promise not to tell our parents, opened the passenger door, and the hitchhiker hopped in for the uphill climb. In the moment, my sheltered existence shook, and I liked it.

Years later, my aunt, uncle and cousins took their bohemian lifestyle to Northern California.

Through the years, my auntie and I have kept close, although we’re not in constant contact. It’s unnecessary; she somehow knows when I need her.

For the past several decades, she and her husband (Uncle Mikey) have called Hawaii home. I’m grateful for our several stays at her island oasis and the bond she and my boys have built.

In my family of four, two words are guaranteed to get a smile or laugh—Auntie Cheryl. And when we plan a vacation to the islands, one of the first questions is, “Will Auntie Cheryl be there?”

One of my fondest mom memories is when my boys were 6 and 8, and we visited my auntie at her home. After a welcoming of hugs and kisses, she turned to each boy and said, “You know what I love best about you?”

In unison, they asked, “What?” Her reply, “Everything!” as she wrapped them in her arms.

It’s just two weeks since our time together at T-Street, but I’m already anticipating our next reunion, and I know we’ll pick up right where we left off—once again.

My auntie, by choice, is connected to my heart and soul.

And so, as silly as it sounds, I’ll be celebrating National Auntie’s Day this Sunday.

For more than 20 years, Shelley Murphy and her husband have lived in San Clemente, where she raised her two sons. She’s a freelance writer and has been a contributor to the San Clemente Times since 2006.

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