---- — When life gets too busy, our peripheral relationships often fall to the wayside. Acquaintances go first, and then friends who aren't part of everyday life. After that, family relationships begin to suffer: cousins, sisters-in-law, and eventually uncles and aunts. Sadly, we don't always have time to spend cultivating these relationships, and so they begin to fade. But the wonderful thing about an aunt is that you can pick up any time, and sometimes the relationship is even sweeter than it was when you were five and she was sneaking candy to you behind your mom's back. My dad has two sisters, and there were four on my mom’s side, so I have been blessed with these six amazing women who have loved me since the day I was born, cheered me on from the sidelines of life, and have always wanted the best for me. I know I can call any of them day or night, no matter how many weeks, months or years have passed, and they will drop everything for me. And it's not even that I am the favorite (although I probably am), but they would do the same for any of their nieces or nephews, because that is the kind of women they are. They love unconditionally, which I didn't fully realize until the past few years. Since I no longer have my mother or grandmothers, the love of my aunts has become even more precious to me. Over the past few months, a little time has opened up in my life, and I've been able to spend time talking, texting and visiting with my aunts. I have treasured every second of it. I find myself memorizing their facial expressions, and attempting to etch their every word into my brain so that I will never forget. Sometimes they are funny, sometimes profound, and sometimes we end up crying together. They hold memories of my mother and grandmothers that I will never hear anywhere else. And if I watch carefully, I will often catch a glimpse of my mom, or one of my grandmas, in the mannerisms and speech of my aunts. Together, their lives equal an enormous amount of experience from which I am welcome to glean, gaining wisdom to apply to my own life. They answer my questions openly and honestly. They not only share their successes, but they share their mistakes and struggles with me, too. They allow me to see the full spectrum of their lives, not only so that I can learn, but also because they know I love them and I will carry their adventures and life lessons into the future. The stories are as varied as their personalities, but one constant thread I see in all of them is strength. Not all of the stories they share are pretty, but I want to hear them. I want to know what made them strong. What gives them their unique perspective on life? How did they get through the tough times, and what lessons did they take away? And I want to hear the memories. I want them to tell me their side of the family folklore. I want to learn things about them that I've never before known. Their history is uniquely entwined with mine, and their stories play a part in the overall picture of my life. They not only share, but they listen. Wholeheartedly and with interest, they listen to my hopes, dreams and heartaches. They encourage and advise, but they also know when to simply give a gentle nod that says, “I hear and understand.” Six different women held me when I was a baby, most of them just teens at the time, and loved me from the start. Six women watched me grow up, and felt pride in my accomplishments. Six incredible women have poured into my life at various times, and helped me become the woman I am today. A woman that I hope they are proud to call, “Niece.” Ginger is an author, speaker and mother of five. Find her on Facebook (Ginger Truitt-Author) and Twitter (@GingerTruitt), or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.