By the time they were born, my parents and I had given up hope for new family blood since my brother got married late in life. You can imagine our excitement when my nieces were born and our family expanded to include two precious little girls. Over the years, we couldn’t get enough of them. We spent as much time together as possible attending school events, watching soccer games, attending birthday parties, reading lots of books, and having lots of sleepovers.
Lucky for me, I always had a flexible work schedule, and I was able to come to Pittsburgh for all the important happenings. Within days of each birth, I was there to hold the girls.
Raising them was relatively easy, except for Hannah’s colic that made her cry continually during every waking moment of her first 3 months. We would pass her around as she continued to wail with no relief. Then, suddenly one day, to everyone’s relief, she quit crying, and she has been a model child ever since.
From the time they were infants, we took them everywhere: camping, to fancy restaurants, on hotel vacations. They were always great fun and no hassle. Even at a young age, they both had a good sense of humor and were really well behaved.
One of my favorite vacations with the girls was a camping trip when they were 11 and 6. We camped under a magnificent star-filled sky on Skyline Drive in Virginia, we toured Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and historic Williamsburg, rode all the rides in Busch Gardens, and camped on the seashore at Virginia Beach, all while keeping a daily journal. We had a rule that everyone, even 6-year old Hannah, had to write in it every day. To me, this journal is priceless.
Unfortunately, as the girls got older and their friends took on new significance, my parents and I continued to drop on the leaderboard. By the time the girls left for college, we rarely saw them. I would be lying if I said our feelings weren’t bruised a little. We knew that it was a normal part of growing up but that didn’t make it any less painful.
To put it into perspective, I tried to recall my feelings at their age. Way back when, I felt pretty much the same in my struggle for independence. Now, as young adults, the girls are starting to drift back. Lately, they seem to find more time for family activities. In light of this, you can imagine my excitement when my youngest niece asked if she could spend Spring Break with me in Cocoa Beach. So, for an entire week, I am enjoying her company as we play together in the Florida sunshine.
Our agenda is full. It includes stand up paddle (SUP), surfing, kayaking, canoeing, biking, eating out, goofy golf, movies, and anything else her little heart desires because even though I didn’t get to pick her, I sure do love her.