The Mouse that Roared postMy great aunt Irene was the person in the family who told it like it was and she didn’t mince words. When you acted up at the dinner table and everyone sighed and looked at their peas, she was the one to voice what everyone was thinking, “Stop acting like a fool,” she’d say. And because she was opposing factions in one body (which are so very Pittsburgh), on the one hand an old, wise woman, who’d seen hardships; on the other, a bosomy hugger who opened her door to you when you needed comfort, advice, tea, and a cookie from the tin on her kitchen table, everyone listened when she talked. And she talked no-nonsense.

She’d tell you to “Cut the crap,” then plant you on the right path in a way that let you know you could do it. You left her house with a sense of purpose, and renewed belief in yourself no matter how crazy your dream. On your way out, she’d always remind you where she hid the key so you could return anytime you liked.

She passed a few years ago, and it seems another of my aunts is slowly becoming more and more like her. Typically an unassuming and quiet person, my younger aunt let it fly the other day when talking about some unruly children in church.

“The Pittsburgh fire burns within,” I thought to myself.

My sister said, “She’s the family’s new Aunt Irene.”

And my Dad remarked, “She’s turning into the mouse that roared.”

And in all this, it amazes me that we all strive to have her qualities—qualities of seeing the clear-eyed truth and converting hardship into belief. She developed these gorgeous gifts the hard way. And yet, you can ask anyone in my family, we’d choose the hard road any day for even the smallest blessing of these gifts.

Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. Her current writing projects, including her daily blog endeavor, #Project365, can be found at