My youngest sister, Teresa was four when I left for college.
At 18, I was more than ready to leave rural New Hampshire, be out from under my parents’ roof, and start learning from some bad decisions. The only thing that really scared me was Teresa not having any memories of her first four years.
I remember everything. The first time I held her – in that hospital room, just her, my Mom, and me. And, I remember crying because I didn’t know what else to do with all that beauty.
I remember our Dad waking me up at two o’clock in the morning a day and a half after she was born to tell that he was headed to the hospital to go get Mom, because Teresa she was being transported to an intensive care unit in Dartmouth for a heart defect.
I remember the worry over her heart and the pure joy that flooded in when she finally came home.
I remember singing into her baby feet. Changing her diapers. Giving her baths. I remember when she was three and told my Mom that out of all the Scooby-Doo characters, I was Velma because Velma was the smart one.
I remember picking her up from school. Playing I Spy when she crawled into my bed early on Saturday mornings. I remember trying to remember all of it so intensely, because if she couldn’t remember, I hoped I could remember enough for the both of us.
Teresa was the first kid in my life to offer me a peek into the almighty power of motherhood.
My nephew, TJ was five when we met.
My then boyfriend, Ken and I had only been a dating a little over three weeks when he asked if I’d like to go to his sister’s house for a barbecue.
I remember everything about that barbecue. It was overcast – so we ate inside instead of on the deck. We had marinated chicken breasts and steak tips, tossed salad, chips, and pasta salad. We drank beer straight from the bottle, which I soon learned drove my future mother in-law crazy, but this all came after I first remember meeting TJ and his younger brother, Justin.
When Ken and I first arrived the clouds didn’t look quite so ominous, so the boys were still playing on their swing set in the backyard. Their Mom, Ken’s sister, Heidi was sitting on the grass watching her boys. She met her younger brother with a hug, me with smile and a kind handshake, and then she called for the boys to come say hello.
They ran – raced really – over to Uncle Kenny, and the three of them instantly started in on some wrestling maneuvers I didn’t really understand. Having grown up the oldest of four girls this was new to me.
Uncle Kenny introduced us. Both of these boys were unbelievably cute, kind, and so obviously loved and loving. They both gave me a high-five, but for whatever reason, and without prompting, TJ also gave me a hug.
That’s when I suddenly knew I was an Aunt – his Aunt – their Aunt. And the rest of the day took on this sort of euphoric state…ending with Kenny and I taking a long drive to see the ocean and him leaning into my ear and whispering:
“You know I’m going to marry you, right?”
And me, in complete and utter assurance responding: “Of course, I do.”
Today, I shared an early Sunday Supper with Teresa as she leaves for a semester abroad in New Zealand…and got to sing Happy Birthday to my now 17 year-old nephew, TJ.
I am so very filled with gratitude for the many memories that these little, lovely kids and kind, caring young adults continue to give me.
Watching them grow teaches me so much, and being a part of their roots is truly one of the most nurturing rewards of finding my place on our big, connected, and ever-expanding family tree.