Monday, December 16, 2013

it's my dream but it's yours if you want it too

The arrival of my niece has not changed my life. I didn't meet her and suddenly have a baby-fever type of revelation. She didn't make me question all of my choices and doubt all the decisions I have made in my life. She turned up, all six pounds of her, to happy parents, and I laughed at almost every thing that came out of the bro-seph's mouth. When she was a day old, he remarked "she's got a really chill personality," and I didn't have the heart to tell him that actually she was just a newborn baby. My mother turned up 4 weeks later and complained that the baby didn't play much, that she slept all the time. The woman has started her unrealistic expectations now, so I fear for that baby's adolescent years.

She looked like a wrinkly alien when she arrived, my niece. She wasn't some angelic perfection (shh, don't tell my brother and sister-in-law). And also, she's not the first baby born to people I love. I have two godsons, and many of my dear friends have had children, and I am happy for every single one of them.

But when my niece showed up and settled into my arms, I did have a strong reaction all the same. Funnily enough, before she was born, I had this irrational thought that maybe my brother and sister-in-law would hoard her, and would find me an annoyance. It was completely and totally and absurdly irrational, as it turns out. Because, for one thing, there was something my brother and I learned growing up-- there is simply no such thing as too much family.

We grew up surrounded. Two uncles, two aunts, their spouses and children, all living in a one mile radius of us. My brother and I were the oldest but it didn't detract from the importance of their presence. There was quarreling alternating with teasing. There were equal measures of tears, bruises, and laughter. And I remember, when I was younger, finding it all very suffocating-- like nothing I ever did was mine, because so many other people were involved, talking about it, their expectations adding more pressure, their bragging about anything I'd done somehow diminishing anything I did as wholly my accomplishment.

My niece arrived, and I knew I wanted to be geographically close to her if at all possible, because my brother and I grew up with the idea that you needed as much back-up as you could gather around you. And the problem then was that I wasn't sure I'd actually be able
to stay around, because that was somewhat out of my hands. Some friends, trying to make me feel better, kept telling me that being away from my niece for a couple of years would do no harm. "They don't remember anything at that age" and all that. But thing is- I knew that to be false. I can't tell you why, I don't even understand it myself, but I can tell you I'm very close to those twerp cousins who I cradled and played with and babysat in my teenage years-- they're adults now and we all live far apart, but when we get together, there's an unmistakable closeness that I treasure.
Circumstances are what they are. I would have had to deal with it, had I not lucked out, had I not been able to stay. I learned that from my extended family too- time came and they had to do what they had to do. I struck gold though with this little niece of mine. I've got a brother and sister-in-law who want her to know her foi as much as possible, and I get to stay near enough that I can see her frequently enough to be a part of her life. Looking at that kid, I did feel a sense of responsibility- to not drop her, to hold her when she fusses even if it's spoiling her a bit, and all that other unconditional stuff that comes with family. But also there's a different kind of responsibility- to find as much joy in my life, to share that with her and as many others as I can.

So the little pipsqueak did teach me something already. She reminded me what I already had known- that there is no such as too much family. Her arrival coincided with some big news in my life that was good (actually, great), and when there was this amazing outpouring of sincere happiness on my behalf, I realized what an idiot I was when I was younger and found sharing my accomplishments to lessen them. It's exactly the opposite as it turns out: knowing that so many people have supported me, have cheered me on, have held their breath on my behalf, have known what this means to me-- it's actually amplified my own happiness, and made me feel wrapped in a collective embrace that I had not known was there.

Some of that family who've been part of that embrace, they're family not by blood but by love. Some of them are you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sending much love across the miles.