When it comes to my sense of personal expression and style, I owe a lot of who I am today to my Aunt Linda. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love my parents with my whole heart, and am very much a product of their love and nurturing. But when I was growing up, the person I admired and wanted to emulate the most was Linda. She was cool, she was hilarious, she was well-dressed, and she was fearless.
Some of my fondest memories growing up were days when we would pile into Aunt Linda’s minivan, crank up the Michael Bolton tunes, and head out for a day of shopping. We would hit the JCPenney Outlet, Gold Circle, and the local mall. We’d all find a treasure… maybe a new shirt or a pair of earrings. And if we all behaved during the adventure we could get a pretzel, some candy at Mr. Bulky, or a pile of burritos at Taco Bell. We laughed a lot and shopped till we were completely exhausted. They were some of the best days of my life.
When I was in middle school, Aunt Linda had a job working at Casual Corner. She acquired a lot of knowledge about how to complete and accessorize an outfit. Plus, she got an employee discount that she would generously share. She had a massive closet full of clothes, which since I was tall and curvy for my age, meant I could borrow all of it. She taught me what colors look best on me, according to Color Me Beautiful… I’m a winter, and jewel tones are my jam! Aunt Linda has always been more than generous, picking up an occasional pair of earrings or an outfit to gift me, just because.
In addition to her fashion knowledge, Aunt Linda is a genius with a sewing machine. Throughout my life she has costumed performances and plays, created handbags, and made fun things to wear in the chaos of her sewing room. Most of the time, she doesn’t even need a pattern… she can just see it in her brain and construct it. (It also means we can have great conversations about Project Runway.)
As long as I can remember, Linda has been fearless in her fashion choices. She isn’t afraid to wear bright bold colors or statement jewelry. She has always been a person who lets her clothes speak into the room about who she is. As she has aged, she continually finds a way to look age appropriate, yet fashion forward. She always looks put together and fabulous.
Aunt Linda loves deeply and gives generously to everyone she meets. She courageously went to nursing school after her own kids were out of the home, and now works as a pediatric nurse. I know the families that visit that office feel her love in a big way. She has volunteered with disabled adults and gives each of those men and women a purpose. She is the kind of person who sees a need and fills it.
I’ve learned how to be 100% comfortable being myself by watching Aunt Linda. She is unafraid to make people laugh, sing and dance in the store, or bleat loudly out the car window like a sheep if the mood strikes her. Balanced with her spunk, Linda has always been straightforward and honest, unafraid of difficult conversations if necessary. There were times in my life that I hated it, but I’ve always appreciated that she was willing to tell me what I needed to hear.
From the way I love my students, to the way I dress for work every day, I am so incredibly proud of all of the ways I am very much like her. I hope that I can leave as much sparkle and love in my wake as she has always done. Thank you Aunt Linda for helping to create the fierce, colorful force that I am today.