One of the best parts about being from a large family is having nieces and nephews. I absolutely love being an aunt, and I always have. In fact, because there’s such an age gap between myself and my older siblings, my oldest niece is only three years younger than I. Now, I will admit that it’s just a smidge disconcerting when this particular niece calls me “Aunt Cathie.” I don’t require it of her and she says she does it out of respect. And, while I respect that – after all, she was raised to show respect to her aunts and uncles – I’m only three years older. I don’t “need” that level of respect.
But I digress. As usual, I’m off on a tangent. My point is this: next to being a parent, being an aunt is the best!
My memory is a card catalogue of many wonderful stories of my nieces and nephews when they were children. For example, my nephew Sean is now 31, but I remember him best at about age three. I remember giving him a bath, wrapping him in a dark red robe, combing his hair nicely, and him turning to me and saying, “Aunt Cathie, do I look beautiful?” Yes…not only did he look beautiful, he melted my 13-year old heart!
I remember going off to college and my (then) 3-year old nephew Jason memorizing my phone number at the dorms and calling me at the ungodly hour of 11:00 am on Saturday mornings. My roommate wasn’t quite as amused, but ya gotta love a little kid who loves you so much that he can memorize your phone number and call you.
Then there were my youngest nieces, Ana and Trina…they’re adult women now, but I remember them best at about ages six and four when they had more energy in the palms of their little hands than could be contained in an entire ocean. I remember their endless giggles and the sweet innocence with which they approached everything in life.
These days, most of my nieces and nephews are adults and all of my aunt energies are focused on the youngest of the brood, Kaleb.
Kaleb is an incredibly bright and precocious child and, besides my own children, is the light of my life. But that child has a memory! It’s almost unsettling how well that child remembers things!
A few years ago when he was about three, we spent a week at his family’s home on the west coast. Prior to our trip, I had just purchased a new minivan with – gasp! – cream-colored leather seats. We were preparing to take a sight-seeing tour with the family, and I had placed Kaleb in the back seat of the vehicle in his booster seat. Unfortunately, I failed to notice that my teenage daughter had left a marker in the cup holder, and the last thing I wanted on my cream-colored leather seats was the artwork of a 3-year old.
“Kaleb,” I said, “I’m sorry but you’ll need to let me have that marker.”
“But it’s mine!” he responded.
“Actually, no. It looks like yours, but it’s Amber’s. She left it in the car and I need to take it please.”
“No! It’s mine!” he cried.
“Kaleb, sweetheart…it looks like one of yours because you have some just like it, but this one is Amber’s and I need you to please give it to me.”
After a lengthy debate regarding not only the ownership of the marker, but whether I had the right to take it away from him, I finally prevailed and took possession of the marker.
“Hi Kaleb!” I said. “How are you? I miss you!”
“Hi Aunt Cathie. I miss you, too. When am I going to get my marker back?” he responded.
Are you kidding me? He still remembered that? It was six months ago!
Several years have passed since then and Kaleb’s family has moved to the other side of the country and so we don’t see him often, but we do make a point of talking on the phone frequently, and I never miss a birthday or Christmas. I want him to grow up knowing me and knowing how important he is to me.
A short while ago, Kaleb’s parents let us know that they’d set up an e-mail account for him and that we should send him e-mails to help him with his reading and writing. I was thrilled! This is just one more way for me to communicate with one of my favorite nephews!
One of the first e-mails Kaleb (then 6-years old) sent out on his own was to his former daycare provider, Miss Lisa. He hadn’t seen Miss Lisa in well over a year, but the first e-mail he sent to her said, “Dear Miss Lisa, could you please mail me the skates I left at your house?”
Seriously? Some things don’t change, and clearly the child’s memory hadn’t diminished in the least.
Shortly after Christmas, I sat down to write Kaleb his first e-mail from me. I thought long and hard about how to phrase it for his little 6-year old brain. My e-mail went something like this:
We miss you! I hope you had a good Christmas. How is your new school? Mommy and Daddy tell me you are reading really well. Good job!
Please give Mommy and Daddy a hug and write me soon.
Several days passed before I finally received a response from Kaleb. Unfortunately, the response I received was not one I expected.
Dear Aunt Cathie,
I do not remember you.
Are you kidding me?
I do not believe him!
I wonder how much his memory will improve when I miss his next birthday? Bwaaahhhhaaaaa!