Today I’m going to blog about the most important thing that has happened to me all year. It happened a while back, but these things take time to sink in.
On February 7th, 2010, I became an Auntie for the first time. My strong and wonderful sister Sarah gave birth to an equally strong and wonderful baby girl called Summer Lily (yeah, alright, her Dad – my brother-in-law Mark – is a bit wonderful too. And he’d be stronger if he ate more vegetables. But this is about us girls.)
I was 21 when I became an Auntie, which in my head is inconceivably young – bearing in mind the image I have of typical Aunties is slightly rotund ladies with a penchant for floral scarves who wear bright lipstick that gets on their teeth, squeeze your cheeks uncomfortably by way of a greeting and buy you toffees. I do none of these things, except all of them. But the point is I’m very young. At the very least, I’m not rotund. I just didn’t feel like an Auntie.
So you can imagine my surprise when, come February 9th, I’m visiting my sister in hospital and get given this small, pink and slightly hairy bundle and am told it’s my niece. And here comes the giant but incredibly true cliche: she was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. And the most terrifying thing I’ve ever held: honestly, in all the first photos we have of Summer and I, I seem to be staring wide-eyed, jaw-clenched at the camera and clutching her aloft in front of me like she’s a very crucial straw in a game of Kerplunk. (This is why there will be no photos of Summer on this blog. My bad.)
My sister and Mark took to parenthood like the proverbial ducks to water: so naturally, it almost felt like they’d never not had children. I, on the other hand, took to being an Auntie like a fish to custard.
I felt like turning to her parents and saying ‘I hate to worry you, guys, but that’s actually a LITTLE PERSON. A little living thing, with breathing and a face and everything. And I don’t want to scare the living daylights out of you, but at some point I’m going to be frickin’ RESPONSIBLE for that thing.’
This is horrifying, bearing in mind my most frequent day-to-day activities are:
1. Absent-minded singing
2. Eating Kitkats by chewing all the chocolate off from round the edges first
3. In-depth conversations with my cats
4. Forgetting why I’ve entered a room
Oh dear. How can I look after one of these when I still AM one of these?
I decided I was going to get around this small dilemma by being cool, eccentric Auntie L-J – the one that can get away with accidentally swearing or dropping her while trying not to spill my Margarita because it’s ‘so typical‘ of me, and I am a ‘character‘! Things went well, as I immediately reduced my relationship with Summer to me trying to teach her various hand signals, such as ‘Rock on‘ ‘Peace‘ and ‘Live Long and Prosper‘. This went well.
As the weeks went by, I noticed a pattern developing. Whenever Summer and I were together, I was fine until she got tired of the hand signals thing and started crying. Then the blind panic took over, and it was straight back to Mummy. It caused a sort of lack of progress in the ‘getting to know each other’ stage of Auntie-Niece relations. ‘Live long and prosper’ was only getting me so far. I got a bit worried.
Thankfully, I’ve discovered recently that I have a bit of a knack with crying babies, or with Summer at least: no matter how screechy she is, I have the curious ability to send her practically comatose. I do this by walking around, jiggling her about a bit, and singing just about every song in my repertoire, from The Lion King to Ella Fitzgerald to Beyonce.
This discovery of the incredible tediousness of my vocal chords provided me with a bit of a ‘Eureka’ moment on Sunday. As Summer’s snores began to punctuate each line of ‘All the Single Ladies’– or whatever I was singing at the time – I felt her hands clutching my arms so tightly, and her head snuggled into my neck. The experience of a baby communicating affection to you in this way is literally the warmest and fuzziest feeling possible, and I realised for the first time that she felt safe with me. Of course, she has no reason to whatsoever, as I’m still a walking disaster and I still forget why I’ve entered rooms, but that’s not the point. At least the absent-minded singing seems to have its uses.
Image taken from Ralph Goetter‘s photostream