Twelve years ago, I sat up late, all curled up on the sofa waiting for a phonecall from England. I was unwilling to go to bed for fear of sleeping through the ringing. When that phonecall finally came, I cried. My first niece had made her way into the world.
Three weeks later, I was on a plane to England to meet her, and it was love at first sight. She was so tiny and so, so perfect. I saw her again later in the summer when my sister brought her across the Atlantic to meet the clan. I remember singing her “Hippo In The Bathtub” when she cried, and every single time, she stopped. Possibly to wonder why I was making those weird noises.
Over the past twelve years, I’ve watched her grow. First into a rambunctious toddler, then into a doting big sister, then into a thoughtful, intelligent and creative young lady.
I’m so proud of her that sometimes, I feel like I might burst from it. As a kid, I was an avid reader, particularly of the fantasy genre. My niece has not only followed in her auntie’s footsteps, but surpassed me. Man. I thought I was an advanced reader, but this girl read the entire Harry Potter series by the time she turned seven.
I love giving her books, though it isn’t always what I go for. Actually, what I love the most is giving her books that I either loved at her age, or else ones I wish had been written when I was her age. A few summers back, she told me that her favourite books were the ones I gave her. I think it may be the best compliment I’ve ever been given.
She doesn’t just read, either. This girl can write. I think there may be some sort of genetic tendency for this endeavour, as her Mum is a published and talented poet. My neice has written both prose and poetry, and everything I’ve read from her has absolutely astounded me.
She’s a fantastic actress, too. Granted, I’ve never been lucky enough to attend a performance of hers, but I’ve been sent videos of her performances, and she treated me to a live rendition of a monologue (written by her, too) that had me laughing so hard.
Did I mention her musical ability? Because she’s got that, too. Before the current shutdown, she performed with some classmates in a band, and while I admit to auntly bias, they were really, really good.
She paints. She does synchronized swimming. She can rughook. And she’s only twelve years old. She blows my mind.
She is twelve today, and I don’t think I could be any more proud of her than I am. Of course, I’ve said that before, only for her to turn around and do some new, amazing thing, and I discover new depths of pride and love.
If I had one wish for her, it would be this: never, ever forget how special you are, and how many people love you. No matter where you go in life, no matter what you do, your Aunt Jenn is going to be right there, cheering you on. And bragging about you to anyone who will listen. (Seriously, kiddo, I do that. Like… all the time.)
Happy birthday, Clverkins. (That’s what I called you when you were tiny… I was right to do so, I see.)
((Note: If you are reading this and know my wonderful girl, and want to chime in to add your own praise in the comments, please do so, but I also ask you to protect her privacy. My choice to leave her name out of this was deliberate.)