50 years ago my Aunt Joan was born. Hers has not been an average life. She arrived prematurely, possibly having an unfortunate run-in with the umbilical cord on the way out. Regardless of the cause, she has had a special place in our family because she did not develop in a typical manner.
From all accounts, it was not easy in those early years. The doctors made grim predictions about Joan’s future based on what they thought her IQ was. Grandma once threw a social worker out of her house for suggesting that Joan should be removed from the family and raised elsewhere.
She was the seventh born in a big Irish family and everyone rallied around their baby Joan, sharing feeding responsibilities and surrounding her with love and support. Joan was a part of that family and although it was a family forever changed, from their enlightened perspective, they were better for it. To this very day she lives with my grandparents who are in their mid-nineties.
Joan is a remarkable person. Embraced by a supportive school and staff, she has spent the last 25 years working as a classroom helper in a centre for children with special needs and who are medically fragile. Joan has a special place at Mabel’s Labels as well. She helps out when brochures need to be stickered, she decorates posters and cards for special events and contributes her famous brownies for staff functions. Most of all, she is our biggest fan. If you’ve ever been on a city bus and had the woman next to you ask if you have Mabel’s Labels, chances are it was Aunt Joan. She hands out her Mabel’s Labels business card to anyone and everyone – a business card which appropriately lists her job title as “Superstar”.
To get the full picture of the positive impact Joan has on those around her, let me tell you how her 50th birthday was celebrated:
– The school board threw a surprise party for her. 50 staff members and retired staff were in attendance to celebrate;
– Our family had a surprise dance party/open house. More people than I could count were in attendance;
– Of those people at the dance party, a ridiculous number of us were wearing t-shirts featuring Joan’s picture and the words ‘Joan is a Superstar’;
– Even the babies in the family got involved. They all wore custom-made shirts that said “Great-Aunt Joan is a Superstar”.
I know when we all have babies we want them to be perfect in every way. However, Joan has taught me that sometimes it’s only when they are not “perfect” that they are able to become Superstars.
Do you celebrate someone special in your family?
In celebration of Mabel’s birthday, Julie Cole reflects on a birthday post about one of her favourite people – her very special Aunt Joan.