Yesterday, I received a birthday card. The writing on the envelope was unfamiliar but I was in a hurry so I just ripped it open and took out the card. I scanned the front, opened it and stopped. The words on the inside were lost on me because the only thing I saw was the signature - it was signed "Aunt Dollie". My aunt died in 2007. My mother was close to Aunt Dollie, as close as my mother could be to anyone. So, my childhood is filled with memories of my aunt. She was unlike my mother in so many ways. She was patient. She was all hugs and kisses and love. I can easily remember what it felt like to have her arms around me, the way she'd nuzzle my neck and nibble my ear. I do the same to my own children now, holding on to my own past while passing it on. There was a brief time during my late 20's when I was estranged from my aunt. After I came out, she distanced herself from me and I was confused and hurt. Then, for my 30th birthday, she sent me a card and a letter that explained the distance and gave me that which is so difficult for so many - an apology. My mother and sister came to Minneapolis for my 30th birthday party and, when I met them at the airport, my aunt was with them as well. Surprise.

All the memories, the hurt and the healing, ran through my head yesterday as I stared at that card and my aunt's name. There was a piece of paper tucked inside and I finally opened that and read it. It was a note from my cousin, Janice. She had been looking through Aunt Dollie's 2007 calendar and the card had fallen out of the September pages and she thought to send it to me. I'm so glad she did because, in doing so, she gave me an incredible gift - a return to the beauty of the past.