My Aunt Kelly had a birthday last week. You know what that means...birthday tribute!
I was in elementary school when my dad's youngest brother, Lewis, brought his girlfriend Kelly home to meet the family. My sisters and I were so excited to meet her. My parents' other siblings had married either before we were born or when we were babies, so this was a new experience to be meeting a prospective aunt. Kelly was much younger than our other aunts, and she seemed so fashionable, pretty, and "hip." I remember that she jumped with us on the trampoline in my grandparents' backyard and then we laid on our backs and looked up at the stars and giggled and talked with her. She was so friendly and fun, and she definitely won over the three little Westover girls during her visit. I think we were a little starstruck.
Obviously, we were thrilled when she married my uncle and so excited when they moved to Colorado for a few years. When their daughter Emily was about one and I was about nine, I wrote a story called "Emily The Bubble Girl" and gave it to Kelly as a gift. If I recall correctly, it was the story of a baby who accidentally swallowed soap and ended up burping out bubbles which floated all over the house. This masterpiece was scrawled on construction paper, illustrated with crayons, and crudely stapled together, but Kelly acted like I was going to win a Newbery Honor with that little story. She praised my creativity and my writing, and she made me feel so good about myself. A few weeks later, she gave me a little plastic bubble that she had bought at a Hallmark type of store. It was like a snow globe with glitter, confetti, and a note inside: "A bubble of love for you." It meant so much to me that I put it on the shelf in my room. As I got older and redecorated, I couldn't get rid of that little token of love, so I put it in my childhood memory box, and it is still there. I will always have that memento of an aunt who expressed interest in me and faith in my talents.
In the years since, every time she sees me, she asks if I am still writing and praises and encourages me. It is such a blessing to have family members who believe in me. I am so grateful that Kelly joined our family when she did--I admire her warmth, easy laugh, and openness with the people around her.
Happy Birthday, Aunt Kelly, and thank you for the love and encouragement you have always given me. Love you!