She was the first baby I ever fell in love with. I had been around many babies before, but never had I been so smitten as this. When I babysat for her I would pretend she was mine. It was easy because everyone remarked at the resemblance between us. I paraded her around my school, my friends, my work. I had to introduce her to everyone. Yes, I was smitten.
I remember nights at my sister's apartment when I would beg to put my baby to sleep. I would turn the radio to soothing music and stand in front of the big patio windows dancing her to sleep. Her hair was the sweetest smell I had ever known in my 17 years. Her cheeks were so rosy and soft I had to restrain myself from kissing her too much and keeping her awake.
For a while when she was two I had the pleasure of being her nanny. Every morning at the crack of dawn she would come bounding in my room begging for her "ba-ba" and her favorite show "Bananas in Pajamas". She would cross her legs, stick her nuk on her big toe, and bounce her foot up and down. Up and down. Even at two years old she was funny, expressive, and full of life. She was a handful for some, but was always fabulous for me. My little buddy.
Today my niece turns 15. I can easily remember what my life was like when I was 15. On the one hand things were so exciting and new and all of life's possibilities were mine for the taking. On the other hand life was confusing, draining, scary, and at times heart breaking. At fifteen I turned inside myself and tried to find exactly who I was. Who I wanted to be. It was a time of mixed emotions. At fifteen I struggled.
Distance made it impossible to stay in my niece's life as much as I've wanted to over the years, but fate has brought her, her sisters, and my sister back home. I'm so glad that she is here. I hope she knows how much it means to me to have her close again, and to be able to watch her in this most exciting, fun, confusing, and draining time in her life. And I hope she knows that whatever she needs I am always here for her.
For years I've carried this advice around in my wallet. It has helped to lift me from my funks and inspire me to do better. I hope that it helps to inspire my niece as well and reminds her of life's possibilities.
Be grateful for each new day.
A new day that you have never lived before.
Twenty-four new, fresh, unexplored hours to use usefully and profitably.
We can squander, neglect, or use them.
Life will be richer or poorer by the way we use today.
Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could;
some blunders and absurdities crept in;
forget them as soon as you can.
Tomorrow is a new day.
You shall begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be
encumbered with your old nonsense.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson