Friday, May 15, 2009

Aunties and Uncles

When I was growing up in the deep south, we were taught manners. We said "yes, ma'am" and "no, sir", and "please" and "thank you". If I had ever said, "Yeah" to a teacher I quite possibly would have been expelled.

No one would have questioned it.

I kid you not - true story - I once had a teacher threaten to break my arm because I shrugged my shoulders at her instead of saying, "I don't know." (Oh, if only we knew then what we know now about law suits. My family could have been wealthy.)

I'm not bitter.

All teachers were addressed as Mr./Mrs./Miss and their last name. Teachers did not have first names or if they did, we certainly never used them. That was a sign of total disrespect and none of us ever dared to cross that line and find out what the punishment would be.

When I was in college, my tenth grade English teacher was in my creative writing course working on her masters. She told all the students to treat her as any other student and call her "Carol".

I couldn't do it.

Now often, there were adults in our lives who weren't related to us, but were friends of the family. These people were often given the title of Mr./Mrs./Miss and their first name. It was a way of bestowing honorary Aunt and Uncle titles on them. It showed that they were your parent's best friends, or someone you saw at church all the time, or your dance instructor (who was totally cool and not at all like a school teacher) and they were just too close to you to keep the formality of the last name between you.

When we had our own kids, we followed the same rules of addressing adults that we had been taught. We never thought anything about it.

Then Kerry joined the Army and we left the deep south.

We met Yankees.

We discovered that Yankees do not like to be dubbed honorary aunts and uncles. They like the formality (they call it respect) of being addressed by their last names. We found this very odd, but came across it more and more as we moved around the country. We finally came to realize that most people outside of the south do not like children calling them by their first names, even when Mr./Mrs./Miss is in front of it.

Now, we have moved to Hawaii.

We have to learn a new system.

In Hawaii, adults are dubbed "Aunties and Uncles"..........even if they don't know you. Auntie is just another word for "Ma'am" or "Hey, Lady!" I was at church one day and a young boy near me was chanting at me, "Auntie! Auntie! Auntie!" I had no idea he was talking to me. When Emily was introduced to her new Sunday School teacher she was told, "Call me Auntie Kim, everyone does." ", thank you," was Emily's reply (she has since adopted the new system).

Now that more of the kids know me, I've become "Auntie Amy" but still those who don't know me just holler, "Auntie!" They holler because they think I'm deaf since I don't respond the first few times they try to get my attention.

The new system takes some getting used to.


  1. Isn't it funny how different customs are. Over here in Germany, adults rarely smile and especially at kids so when we were at the Dallas airport people were talking to the kids and Emma (was only 17 mon when we arrived in Germany) kept telling me they are smiling and talking to her...why? :) I tried to explain we were in the states and people are just that way here and are trying to be nice. It isn't that the people here are not nice or don't like kids...just the way they do things.

  2. This is GOOD! GG