Becoming Aunt Lydia

It was dark and raining and my mind was going one thousand times faster than the car I was driving. I wasn’t in the mood to be in this kind of traffic, caused by late-night rain when it’s that mid-December kind of dark that makes you wonder if the stars still exist. Everyone was slowing down and the world was being inundated with blurry red lights and no one seemed to notice that I needed to get somewhere. 

Seriously, could Abigail have picked a worse time to have a baby?

I had gotten the call from Daniel about an hour ago. He was rushing my sister to the hospital because they really thought tonight was going to be the night. Nine months of waiting and I could hear in his voice how desperately my brother-in-law wanted tonight to be the night. 

Except no one else wanted tonight to be the night. My mother, afraid of driving in the dark, had been texting me for the last hour. Can you pick me up and take me to the hospital to see Abby? Are you on your way? Will you be here soon? I’ll never forgive myself if I miss this, Lydia.

The “myself” was meant to be read “you.”

I had told her I would pick her up. I had told her there was traffic. I had told her that I was 45-minutes away from her house without traffic. Eventually, I reminded her that she had taught me to not text and drive and threw my phone into the backseat.

My mother wanted to be a grandmother, but she didn’t want it to happen without her there. Daniel’s mother lived three hours away and, having been told the due date was still a week away, was not prepared to magically get to the hospital in time. Personally, I had been on the first decent date I’d been on in two years. But apparently my happily married, soon to be a happy mother, sister just couldn’t wait.

The driver of the car in front of me slammed on their breaks. I followed suit, a groan escaping my lips. My phone vibrated. I should’ve turned the thing off before I threw it.

No one likes to be outdone by their younger sibling. Not on the things that matter. Like, of course, it never bothered me that Abigail was a better basketball player than me. I played volleyball. It was a superior sport. But when she got her first kiss before me? Or when she got engaged before me? Or when I was her maid of honor, instead of matron? Those things mattered. Those things were too backwards. 

And the “funny” thing about your younger sister getting married before you is that it never stops. She’s the first one married. She’s the first one pregnant. She’s the first one handing Mom the baby she’s been waiting our whole lives to hold.

And then there’d be me. Sitting in the corner. Drinking wine because I’m not pregnant. Sitting alone because I’m not married. Talking to no one because once that baby comes, it’d be all anybody cared about. Until there was another baby. Which I wouldn’t be having anytime soon by the looks of things.

When I pulled into my mom’s driveway, she ran out with two gift bags in her hand, hunched over in an attempt to keep them dry. She hopped into the passenger’s seat and didn’t even bother to say hello. Just shouted, “Go! Go! Go!”

I wondered what she had been like the night she had me.

It didn’t take long for us to end up back in standstill traffic. Abigail just had to pick the hospital on the side of town that put us right in rush-hour traffic. I watched the cars on the other side of the cement boundary whiz past at the speed they were supposed to go on the highway. 

My mother, now that she was finally in the car and felt certain that she would in fact make it to the hospital, was unfazed. Every few moments she’d say something along the lines of “I wish your father was here to see this,” or “I hope Abby isn’t in too much pain.” I told myself to be thankful for the change. “I can’t believe I’m going to be a grandma” had been the main thing I’d heard my mom say for the last nine months.

“That’s the exit!” she said suddenly.

I jolted the car over to the exit lane, thankful I had only been one lane over. “Oh, thanks.”

“Would’ve been awful to sit in all that traffic only to miss it!” To my surprise, she was

genuinely laughing. What had happened to the woman who had been frantically texting me?

“Yeah,” I said. I couldn’t manage to muster any more enthusiasm.

The hospital was a jagged collection of concrete buildings that could never pass for being newly built. The hospital on the other side of town was newer and better respected. Not to mention it was closer to all of our houses. But Abigail and I had been born at St. James Oasis Hospital and that was where Abigail wanted her baby to be born.

I got off the highway and found the parking garage. We had to circle up to the fourth level to find a spot. I put the car in park and twisted around to look for my phone, about to tell my mother that I would just meet her inside. She had to be dying to get in there and find Abigail.

But to my surprise, she was holding out of the gift bags.

“What’s this?”

“It’s for you.”

Confused, I took the small yellow bag from her. I pushed aside the pink tissue paper to find a coffee mug that read, “Aunts are the coolest member of the family.”

I bit my lip, startled by the tears that began welling in my eyes. Maybe tonight wasn’t going to lead to me drinking wine alone in a corner for the rest of my life. Whether the guy from the date called me back or not, from this night forward I was going to be someone’s Aunt Lydia. And that wasn’t nothing.

And even if Abby got to be the first newlywed and have the first baby, I got to be the first aunt.