The night my first nephew was born, I was partying in Philadelphia with friends I'd met in Costa Rica.
I remember getting a phone call around 2am east coast time. Got the news, hung up and announced to the entire party "I JUST BECAME AN AUNT! WHOOOOOOO" And the entire room cheered.
It's not talked about much. How freaking awesome it is to have nieces and nephews.
You get ALL the fun without having to clean up the 2am puke (wait, I've still had to do that!). The kids get an extra adult paying them attention. AND you give the parents breaks they desperately need. Win-win-win.
When the kids started being born on the west coast (the oldest is 15 years old), I found it harder and harder to take trips anywhere but to visit them. Brazil was the last trip I took abroad for a long time.
I have a theory that babies remember the people that hold them right after their born. There is some sort of imprint (maybe this is a real theory, forgive me for not researching it), or maybe their sensitive system remembers our smell. I don't know how they know who held with them. I just know they do.
They know who snuggled with them when they were tiny, helpless brand new human beings.
I flew back for birthday parties. I wiped their asses. I taught them to cook. I showed up for their soccer games. I built forts with them. I spoil them rotten with gifts.
I even dealt with a lice situation (ewwww).
I loved it. Well not the lice part. And I don't miss wiping the butts.
Now I'm having so much fun watching them grow into the fully actualized people and young adults.
To say I love them is an understatement.
I have eight of them now. Two in Los Angeles and six in Seattle. And they are truly the greatest gifts in my life. I know it's cheesy but it's true!
When I've been depressed these past months, they lift my spirits like nothing else could even come close to doing. One of them recently told me, "if you ever want to talk, you can talk to me. It's really important to talk." I didn't want him to see me get all weepy and wanted to respect how mature and lovely he was being, so I kept it together, nodded, smiled and said I appreciate that honey, thank you.
It bums me out when people say "you don't know *this* kind of love until you become a parent."
As if people that aren't parents aren't capable of deep and abiding love, for a child, or for anyone else.
They are literally my favorite people.
J is a fantastic cook. E is an extraordinary writer. D is a gifted athlete. M is a gifted soccer player. Jonah loves history. Y loves to read. R is a baker and artist. R, he likes to do his own thing on his own terms.
They all have their own unique personalities - but what I listed here are the things I have most in common with them.
It's so fun to find that shared interest and then cultivate it with them, without any concern about whether they did their homework or if I made their next well-visit doctor appointment. I have this incredible luxury to simply enjoy them.
Grandparents talk about this all the time. Why isn't it discuss more for aunts and uncles?
Perhaps now that so many people are choosing not to have kids, it will become more common.
In Elizabeth Gilbert's book Committed (which nobody seems to have read except for me - and I'm glad I did because she feels the same way about marriage as I do), she discusses how historians determined that almost every culture had these group of childless aunties.
She goes on to list some of the most accomplished people in history - who were raised and/or supported by their aunts.
It makes sense, doesn't it? That the kids that have an extra adult in their life have a leg up in the world. They grow up with love from somebody that could spend their time and money doing a million other things - but instead invest in them.
How many people have an extra adult in their life that just...gives without expectation?
When I was having those dark thoughts last month. When I was at the darkest moment...really, really heavy in my mind...their faces just kept popping up in my head. Over and over.
I can't leave them. I just can't.
No matter how tired I am of eating the same damn thing every single day, I will keep doing it.
No matter how sick I am of being trapped in a broken body, I will keep pushing forward.
No matter how many times I have shooting pain throughout my torso, I will persevere.
For them. For myself. For my community. For you.
Here's to the babies in our lives! Even when they're growing mustaches and towering over me, I still remember how they felt when they snuggled up as a baby.
PHOTO #24. This post is part of a series celebrating my life before I lost four organs to three cancers in 2014. It is an “online memorial” honoring the person I was, in the hopes that I can make peace with the disabled person I’ve become. Every day for 30 days until my birthday, I will challenge myself to write a post inspired by the photo I’m sharing. I will not plan the topic or write ahead of time. I will merely look at the photo and write whatever it inspires. Thanks for reading! #julesfor30 #happyrebirth