#StandUpForTheAunties

What a night.

So. What’s Stand Up For The Aunties?

Three years ago, give or take, I met Michèle A’Court – famed comedian, author and raconteur, dontcha know – on Twitter, and we just sort of gravitated toward one another. As our friendship blossomed, she said she wanted to do a comedy gig for the Aunties. I wasn’t sure when that would happen. Anyone who knows Michèle, and has seen that diary of hers (it’s an actual diary book paper thing) knows that she is INCREDIBLY busy. ALL THE TIME.  And she was writing a book, so, you know. UBER busy.

So we knew it was going to happen this year, we just didn’t know when. And then. A date was decided upon by the Board – not too close to the election, but not too close to Xmas either – and Miche and Phil got going on organising comedians and venues,  and ticket selling and all that stuff.

It was Michèle who brought this all together, and she did what she said she would, as she always does. Bringing some comedians together (who all happened to be women), who were doing this for free. Justine Smith, who is just one of the best comedians in the world for my money. Sera Devcich, who I’d seen at another fundraising gig, and said to Michèle, must have. And she flew up to Auckland from Wellington and paid for it herself. The Fan Brigade, Amanda and Livi, who are just breathtakingly lewd and gorgeous and funny. And Urzila Carlson. WHAT. Yes. Her. Who is extraordinarily sought after, and always somewhere exotic overseas, and she wanted to do our little gig. (I just about got on my knees in front of her last night. She is a GODDESS.)  And if you have an opportunity to see any of these comedians live, just do it. Because they are absolutely bloody legends.

So, yesterday, all day, I was very very excited. And both M and I, I know, had a bit of an emotional day because we’d had this in our minds a reasonably long time. Before there was a Board, before there was the charity status. I was also emotional because I was bringing some very important people with me. People who I love and respect greatly, who are symbolic of the work the Aunties do, are indeed the people that the Aunties do the work for.  3 women who have impacted my life, and changed the way I work, and they’ll never understand just how much.

There was Kimi, who I met with her mum in the refuge at the end of 2013. She never spoke to anyone when she came into the refuge, but I noticed she watched me alot. Sussing me out. Then one day, she decided I was her safe person and she started to tell me about her pain. Ever since, I have been Aunty Jackie to her, and a member of her extended whānau.

There was Moe, who is one of the most amazing women I have ever met (and I’ve met a lot of amazing women, let me tell you.) She had left the refuge by the time I started working with the women there, and she was on her way to doing her social work degree. She’s almost finished now, and will be a qualified social worker very soon.

And my Rox, who I met in the refuge at the beginning of this year, and who has the most indomitable spirit. She calls me Mama J, and she’s the daughter I never had.

So these three incredibly special women and I made our way into town last night, and arrived at the Classic, where I was just about to faint from anxiety. It wasn’t about us doing well – the tickets had already sold out. It was that something we had talked about for so long was upon us, and I was so excited. So happy. So full of all this love, and I thought I might explode, there and then. I knew I had to make a wee speech, and I’m doing more of that, but I’m never prepared. I never do notes, I never have it clear in my head what I’m going to say before I say it. And I didn’t want to muck it all up by crying too much, which is something I am prone to do.

None of that happened. What did happen was a glorious glorious night of outrageous comedy, raucous laughter, and raising what seemed like an impossible amount of money – over $5000 – and I’ll tell you why that’s so important in a wee while. The kaupapa of the Aunties is: meeting need with aroha. Giving with love. And my, there was a lot of love in that room last night.

So to the thank yous. From myself, from The Board, from the women I work with and who your stuff and money goes to help their healing.

Thank you to: Michéle for organising this. For, from the moment I met you, getting what I was about, and what I needed to happen for my girls to get their stuff. For doing the do to make this night such a successful one for all involved. I love you.

Thank you to Scott, and the staff at the Classic Comedy Club, who let us use your venue for free, and you were so kind and loving! I wanted to particularly thank the lovely Aimee who was so welcoming, and so efficient in seating everyone, and to lovely Aiken  who let me stand beside him at the door and greet everyone as they came in. I thought I was a pain in the bum, he thought it was lovely, so I guess that balances out. (He also did all the techy stuff, so cheers for that!)

Thank you to: Sera, Justine, Amanda, Livi, and Urzila.  Really. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart. For your support for the Aunties, for your love and compassion and heart. For your kindness in doing this for us and for the women. Thank you for being glorious, stroppy, sweary, piss your pants funny, beautiful women, all of you. Thank you for bringing the laughter. I watched my girl’s faces the whole time you were all onstage, and they could hardly breathe from laughing. On the way home, they said you should have a break in the middle of jokes, so people could catch their breaths. I don’t quite know how that would work, but I know they had the best night they’ve ever had, and they didn’t want it to end. And also: thanks you fellas for all the hotel toiletries – like, A HUGE BAG which Rox shouldered like a champion all the way back to the car. They’ll go to the Prostitutes Collective tomorrow.

Thank you Irene Pink, you beautiful human, for coming to do the auction for us. Thanks to your professional skills, we made over $1300. Which we did NOT expect! I have always loved your work as a comedian, but you also make a superb auctioneer. But you knew that. And particular thanks to the table of drunk ladies to the side of the stage who bought most everything at that auction. We love you. No, I mean it.

Thank you to everyone who bought tickets and made this event sell out in just 2 weeks. What incredible support for our work. What you have done, and why this is so important, is raised enough money for us to provide the most exquisite Christmas party for a community who needs one badly. Who has known enormous hurt, and pain, and need all the magic and joy we can give them. So there’s that. And we will be doing luxury food gift baskets for women, and some men, in that community, and for the women I walk alongside everyday in my work. That’s why this matters. We can bring a lot of joy to a large number of people with this money. And I don’t have to beg and scrape and plead for it. That’s a really big deal. You’re ALL Aunties now, by the way. Cos that’s how we roll.

Apparently all the comedians have decided that we’ll just do this every year. I hope so, I really do. Because it does the mauri good to spend a few hours laughing, and sharing that with a room full of loving strangers, and friends, is even better. Meeting needs with aroha. I think you all did that last night, and I am incredibly proud of you all. And so honoured that you chose our little charity to do it for. Thank you. So much.

I love your work.

Jackie x

 

Companionship in compassion

I’ve been thinking a lot lately – and I think about it a lot in general – about what exactly it is that the Aunties do. And what I do. Not the logistics or the practical everyday stuff, but the exact nature of the spirit of it. What helping is, and is that what we do? Do we make change? What exactly is it that we’re doing here? Lots of words are chucked around – helping, fixing, changemakers……

I guess a lot of people would look at what the Aunties do as helping people. I don’t like that thought. I know that’s odd, but bear with. I’m not really about helping people – you, as an Aunty, might be. That’s your motivation. I know a lot of Aunties like being involved at something at a grassroots level – knowing they’re helping people. That’s a really good motivation.

But it doesn’t really explain the why fully. So you like helping people, and you are. That’s your start. You’re helping me, you’re helping the women, you’re helping the refuges, you’re helping the people who I work with, basically, aren’t you? And that makes you feel good. Because we increasingly live in a world where giving and being a good person isn’t much talked about. Where community is a forgotten concept until a disaster or tragedy occurs.

And we’ve built this community, you and I, haven’t we? The Aunties is a community of people who are ostensibly helping other people. Giving stuff that they need, giving money so I can get them stuff they need, or so that they can pay to get the stuff they need.

You may be doing this because you like the feeling you get when you know you’ve done something good. That’s okay. You may do it because you’ve been there, and you know what it looks like to not have enough of anything. Whatever your motivation, it’s all good with me. Because that’s YOUR motivation and I don’t get to question it. It belongs to you. It’s up to you to examine what your why is.

Are we making change? Here’s my thing. We may be making changes in our own lives, I know I certainly have. Being Aunty In Charge has changed my entire life in almost every aspect of it. But are we changing other people’s lives? I don’t think so. I think what we do is give people stuff/pay bills etc to give them joy, dignity, ease, so that they can focus on the changes they want/need to happen. What we do doesn’t change their lives at all. For many of them, if the kids have enough clothes/shoes or if they get a bill paid, it’s one thing less they have to worry about. For many of them, the stuff represents love. That people care about them. All that love and care is building blocks to reinforce the confidence and the self worth they have lost along life’s way. So no, we aren’t changing lives. What you gain by being an Aunty is important to me – and I’ve heard from many of you what you do gain. And the impact of being an Aunty on you may be large or just very tiny. Either way it’s okay. We are all enabling each other. Enabling. There’s a great word. Maybe we’re enablers? Is that it?

Aunties, in the Oxford Dictionary, are simply described as, apart from the female sibling of a parent, an unrelated adult female friend, especially of a child.

The synonyms are: companion, duenna, protectress, escort, governess, nursemaid, carer, keeper, protector, bodyguard, minder.

Given that these are adult women we’re working with, they don’t need nursemaids. And governess is a really old term that’s not appropriate either. Bodyguard, protector, minder, keeper? Well sometimes, but very rarely. Mostly we are companions, and duenna and unrelated friends. I think those are words I relate to most. Those three words very accurately describe a lot of what I personally do, and what I have become, and you? You help me to do those things.  And you do those things too. By giving of yourselves, you become friends and companions to women you will never meet.

I like standing alongside people. That’s my gig. I like holding people’s hands if that’s what they want, holding them tightly if that’s what they need, or just being there silently (or not so silently) cheering them on. And they do that for me. It’s incredibly selfish, this selflessness. And I’m okay with that. I hope you are too. Because we are all in this together. Companions.

Stand Up For The Aunties

A number of years ago – not quite 5, but more than 2 – I met the wondrous Michele A’Court. We’d been communicating online, making a friendship as you do. I think, if memory serves me (which it doesn’t very often seeing I’m in my early 50’s and menopause is A Thing), that she brought up the idea of having a comedy gig to raise money for us on our very first meeting in person. This idea thrilled me, and I had no idea how it would happen. She’s one of the busiest people I know, with a huge heart, but still BUSY. Always on the go. And then I made her chairperson of the Aunties Board, but that just made her BUSIER. (I admit, I thoughtlessly didn’t think of that, just how much fun we’d have).

So here was this idea she’d had. And it bubbled away. We pencilled a date in and we left it largely up to Michele. And boy, did she come through. She and Phil between them have made this gig possible. And so many thanks to the comedians who said yes to us. To Justine Smith – who I adore and who HAD to be there; Sera Devcich who I saw for the first time at a Women’s Centre Fundraiser, and who impressed me so much; Urzila Carlson who we were very lucky to get; and The Fan Brigade – favourites of a number of the Board. Thanks too to the Classic who agreed to let us use their venue free!

So thanks to all those people, this gig is a happening thing. Sunday, October the 15th from 7pm. The tickets cost $35 and you can get those here.

So come and support us – we’d be so happy if you did. The money raised, of course, will be used, amongst other things, to buy: supermarket vouchers for the women, art supplies for the kids, socks and PJs for women/kids when they arrive, and to help women in the community with petrol vouchers.

All these things are ongoing needs, and that need increases every year. So we need your support – we couldn’t do the do without any of you.

Thank you so much.

Aunty Jackie.

 

 

Double Vision

A while ago, in the refuge, I met a young woman with her mum.  She’s 16. and when I met her she was shut down. Closed face, hardened. Staunch.

Things happened, and her mum has disappeared, so she’s living, with her sister, with a caregiver – a wonderful older woman, with a large family who have taken the girls in, and made them their own. And I have also made her my own, with her permission.

I’ve been in her life now for a little over two months, and I wanted to tell you about a special day that we had a couple of days ago. After a big shopping day we had a few weeks ago, her caregiver alerted me to T’s need for glasses. I promised I’d organise it, and then got hectic busy. Her caregiver didn’t let me forget though, bless her, and so a few days ago I found a local optometrist and made an appointment.

I went to T’s school to pick her up, and waited a while for her. When she walked up, and saw me, her face immediately broke into a huge grin. And mine did too. She’s such a joy, and I am incredibly in awe of her, and her spirit.

As soon as we got in the car, she said: How have you BEEN? I’ve missed you! And I reciprocated, because I had missed seeing her lovely face. And it struck me that the question itself was an indicator of what a rate of knots she’s forging ahead at.

I took her to lunch, and we sat and ate and talked. We talked about her counselling and how that was going, we talked about her mum as T starts to process why her mum has done what she’s done. We talked about her spirit, her mauri. How powerful her’s is. How kickarse. How much I admire her.

And then we talked more about her sister, about what it means to look after people, be responsible when you’re not really ready.

We walked into the optometrist and sat down. T looked really unsure, as she always does with new people, and in new situations. But they put her completely at ease. All pālagi women, they fussed over her just enough, and not too much. They gave her agency – could see she was nervous and invited her to look at frames while she was waiting. She is still not confident in decisions she makes, but every time she makes another one, says the word NO she emboldens. Finally a pair was chosen – I don’t want to look too nerdy, she said – and they were lovely too. Makes you look like a very smart confident woman, I said. She grinned.

When it was time for the eye test, the optometrist immediately put her at ease. Chatting away, but not too much. Looking at her directly, speaking to her gently ( I had asked for someone who would be gentle with her). And I could see T visibly relaxing in the chair.  The whole time the testing was happening, all the fiddling around that happens, the optometrist constantly checked in with her – are you okay? You’re doing so well! – and it seemed to take a very short time indeed, compared to eye tests I’ve had in the past. She told her stories of not being able to see when she was a child, how glasses had made her life so much easier, what a great tool they were. She also asked her about her friends – were they going to accept her with glasses? Were there any other kids in her classes with glasses?  Made her aware that the glasses would have a blue tint to protect her young eyes from UV, and that some of the kids would find that a bit weird. T thought about it, decided her friends would be okay, that enough kids had glasses at her school for it not to be a problem – and she gave her a couple of lines to say if anyone gave her a hard time. This is what she told her to say, and I could cry just thinking about it: “My glasses mean I am more powerful than ever.”. T grinned so hard, I thought her face would crack. “They’ll understand that” she said.

The optometrist talked to her about what sort of sight she had, how easy it was to deal with, and how it presented no problem at all. By this time, T had completely relaxed with her, and we were done. We agreed that when the glasses were ready that they would text T, her caregiver, and me, and that I would be the one to bring her to collect them. The optometrist asked to see the frames and exclaimed at how great they were. ” I haven’t seen those ones yet! They’ve only just arrived.” And T said, so proudly “I chose them by myself”. Such a simple statement, with so much meaning to all of us.

I gave the optometrist a hug as thanks, and feedback, and she said to me very quietly: She’s a very very special young woman.

I had tears in my eyes when she said that. Because she’d seen. She knew what all of this meant. How smart T is, and how hard school has been for her. How not being able to see properly has impeded her schoolwork and the teacher’s understanding of her intelligence. What a difference these glasses are going to make to T’s confidence. She saw all of it in a very short time.

As we walked out, all staff waving to us and telling us what a pleasure it had been, T’s smile remained on her face. “Well, that went VERY well” she said.  I agreed, and as we walked out of the building, and saw a chemist, I said to her “I wonder if they have earrings in here”, and they did. She chose a very smart pair – subtly hanging little squares of glass. She didn’t put them in – her ear piercings are still relatively new and she wants to do the right thing – but she told me that with the glasses and the earrings, she reckoned she’d be unbeatable. I think she’s right.

You know, I talk to so many women in a day’s work. I hear their pain, and often see it too. I empathise and relate. But I don’t carry their sadness. I seem to have heard most of it before, and am able to let it go, not my pain.

But this child, and others like her. This child, so smart and wise. So kind, and thoughtful. This child who isn’t a child. This young woman. She is imprinted in my heart now. Anyone who meets her sees her light immediately, and that makes their world better. What a privilege to get to know her. She gives me so much hope, and makes my eyes bright with love. I see so much clearer when I’m in her company.  That she’s so open with her feelings, and so wanting to express them. I asked her if she believed everything I’d told her about who she was: smart, kind, powerful, affecting. She turned to me immediately, and said yes. We could all learn from her.