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Among all of our relatives – our relatives on Charlie’s side ALL live in the U.S., our relatives on my side ALL live in Europe, are three nephews and one niece (my sisters’ children). All are now teens or pre-teens.

The four of them are growing up with mothers that would jump off of cliffs for them, fathers that care deeply for them, grandparents who love them dearly, and aunts who are present, caring, concerned and know them well – all except for one: me!

When my niece (who is the oldest of the four) was born, I was already living in the U.S. The distance makes it impossible for me to have conversations with them about things that frighten them, intrigue them, interest them, or just things they don’t want to discuss with their mothers. All that is accomplished by their other aunts ….

I had decided to enter the race for “favorite aunt” status by sending a Wii for Christmas or Nike sweats at other occasions – not the smartest strategy, I know, but the only one available to me (I think).

Now, we (Charlie and I) are poised for a visit home, and I have asked everyone to send me a “wish list”. My oldest nephew sent an lengthy, very detailed list, while also noting that he did not want or expect every wish on the list to be fulifilled and very generously suggesting that I should also get something for myself. My niece’s list is extremely short and easy to fulfill. And my sister in Greece sent a list for the other two boys.

I love all four of the dearly and I of course would do everything in my power to fill each and every item on their lists – but here is my dilemma: I do not want to be the aunt that flies into town every couple of years bearing gifts that can ordinarily not be bought, and bringing with her the appearance of wealth and excess!

Charlie and I both work hard, and save hard for these trips and these presents. BHE, at 72 should only work at getting from bed to his recliner every day, but he still gets up each morning and works at maintaining our rentals, helps at the house and takes care of our little “zoo” (our three Shih-Tzus). Other than eating out some, we don’t go out, travel much or have expensive hobbies. We put money aside each month, so we can afford these trips and associated presents every couple of years. These facts are REALLY hard to communicate to four young adults when all they see is aunt Irene and uncle Charlie showing up with a magical suitcase, that when opened spits out these things that at home are way too expensive to be purchased!

We will try to explain to them that we are catching up for missed birthdays, Christmases and graduations, good grades and good behavior. How much of it will stick, I have no idea! And by the way, I still think my other sisters (Marina, Daphne, Rena and Christina) are getting the better end of the deal!

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