My nieces
People say it takes a village to raise a child. We’ve all heard that phrase before and National Aunt and Uncle’s Day is a great time to think about what it truly means.

Celebrated every year on July 26, this unofficial holiday has been around for quite a while. Its origins and history though are literally impossible to determine. Even in today’s easy-to-research, internet age there aren’t many details to be found. There’s not much information regarding how to observe the day either. Most sites just suggest a visit or call to spend some quality time together. However, I’d like to make my own suggestion as to how you can celebrate the often-unsung supporting actors in your family – tell their story. Here’s mine.

The Early Years

I was raised in a village. Now we have a couple thousand residents but, four decades ago, it was only a couple hundred people. It was small, so small in fact, that there wasn’t even daycare available for me as an infant. Not to worry though because I have uncles. They helped my grandma, around their regular jobs, start a daycare. Their sacrifices allowed her to care for me (and a generation of other country kids as well). Today, I know well over 50 fully grown men and women that still call them uncle too!

My Aunts

My maternal grandparents raised their own niece, in their home, because of addiction issues present in hers. She’s technically my cousin, but for almost 40 years, I’ve called her my aunt. She taught me how to use a globe, dominate at Scrabble, and appreciate a good book. Every single nursery rhyme I sing to my own nieces today can be credited to her as well. Another aunt made sure I got on the bus every morning throughout elementary and middle school. She taught me you don’t have to be a football expert to love the Vikings. She also bought me my first suit when I finally decided to pursue a career path that no longer required wearing a Hi-Vis shirt to work. It’s safe to say I wouldn’t be writing this article today if it weren’t for that suit!

My Uncles

I learned all about construction from my mom’s oldest brother. Her youngest is one of my greatest agricultural influences. And her middle brother taught me that there’s still a place in the trades for an artistic eye. Not always gentle, but ever kind, I never learned an unnecessary lesson from any of them. They are some of my best friends, greatest allies, and the ones that still get the tough questions first from me.

Next Generations

My aunts and uncles taught me to farm, hunt and fish. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to braid my own girls’ hair, frame a house, finish concrete, weld, operate a lathe, drive a stick, or a host of other things. They showed me how to work tirelessly, try unashamedly, and love unconditionally. It’s undebatable to say I would not be the man, or uncle, I am today without them.

That’s important too because, 12 years ago, my oldest niece was born into a situation that required more from me than the “typical” uncle. Two years later, her sister arrived. Life didn’t prepare me to raise girls, that’s for sure. It did prepare me to raise people though. Mostly because my own aunts and uncles were a major part of that preparation. I wish the lessons I’m passing along from them today serve my girls just as well in their own lives tomorrow. I’m pretty sure they will.

I hope you read this and take the time to reach out to your own aunts and uncles today. Tell them what you remember, what you can’t forget, what you appreciate; tell them anything you want, but make sure you tell them thank you. Then share their story too.

Josh Erickson, ReTool Public Relations & Engagement Specialist