Today is a very special day. Because of a very special girl.
Today, my youngest niece turns thirteen. An important milestone. The birthday that marks the beginning of her journey toward adulthood.
I have three nieces and a ton of stories about all three. The girls are so very different, yet each has created her own place in family legend. T was the oldest, the pioneer who blazed the trails for the others to follow. When she was sixteen, I took her and my mother to New York for four days. We let T pick the Broadway shows and the sights we would see. She asked me if she could have a tattoo. Knowing her parents would never permit it, I agreed to take her to a tattoo parlor anyway. I asked the owner to show her how tattoos were done. When she saw his utensils (read here: the needles), T's initial enthusiasm rapidly waned. I pretended not to notice and continued pointing out potential designs in the display books. After a few minutes, she sidled up to me and asked if we could leave.
When T returned home, she told her father what a cool aunt I was, citing the tattoo story as proof. My oldest brother told her I would never have allowed her to get a tattoo. To prove him wrong, she telephoned me. I confirmed her father's assessment, explaining that I'd anticipated she would back out. Outraged, T asked, "What would you have done if I'd wanted to go through with it?" I explained, "I would have told the man that you were only sixteen, and I wasn't your mother. Without parental consent, you couldn't get a tattoo." T was not amused.
L is my middle niece. She's already thirteen and so beautiful she takes my breath away. When she was six, L wanted a kitten. Neither of her parents were inclined to get her one. Her father, my middle brother, promised her that when one of my cats had kittens, she could have one. He conveniently forgot to mention that one of my cats was a male and the other was spayed. It took months for me to figure out why she kept telephoning to ask if either of the cats was pregnant.
M, the birthday girl, is a source of constant surprise. When she was four, she accidentally locked herself in her mother's bathroom upstairs. When neither of her parents heard her first scream for help, she went to the floor-to-ceiling second story window, kicked out the screen and leaped. A neighbor working in her yard saw it happen and came flying across the lawn, shouting for help. Fortunately, it had just rained and a bush broke M's fall. Her guardian angel must have been working overtime that day because she didn't have a mark on her. An overnight stay in the hospital confirmed she hadn't been harmed.
Today, I celebrate M. I'm grateful for her kindness, especially to my mother. Since the death of my father, M has spent many days (and nights) with her grandmother, providing company. I applaud M's generous spirit. She was already ten when her younger brother was born. Instead of displaying jealousy or anger, she accepted him wholeheartedly and willingly entertains him whenever her mother needs a break.
Next month, M's father, my youngest brother, will take her to New York to celebrate her birthday in style. Her uncle and cousin L will go along as well. I'm excited for the four of them and glad their fathers are making their daughters a priority.
Happy Birthday, sweetheart. I'm honored to know you and look forward to watching you blossom into womanhood.
With lots of love,
Your proud aunt