So, I’ve written recently about one of my loveys, my niece Emmie…and so I thought I’d write a little about another…my niece Angelina. There’s so many words I could use to describe her, but I’d literally be here all night doing that, so I’ll say just say that she is simply…amazing. And she is. She’s 8 years old, going on 9–but most days, it’s more like 8 going on 30. No joke. She’s incredibly smart…sometimes more so than I think any 8-year-old has a right to be. And she lets you know so, too. 🙂
She was a sweet baby. Not that she isn’t sweet still…but it’s more like it’s selective sweet–she’s sweet when she wants to be. (Typical 8-year-old, of course.) The first time I laid eyes on her, she was just a few hours old. Brand-new baby smell and all. I remember holding her the first time and she didn’t cry or anything. She just looked up at me, eyes wide and curious. Like she was taking it all in–sizing me up. And while she was doing that, I fell in love. Hard. Fast. I could have stood there forever, just holding her, staring at her. She was beautiful and perfect. She was amazing.
I was 16 when she was born. 16 and filled with all that teen angst and just starting to realize that life isn’t as black and white (or at all) as I thought it had been and would be. I was going through a lot of crazy, personal things and dealing with stuff that no 16-year-old (or anyone else, for that matter) should have to deal with. I was, for all purposes, in a living hell. But she changed that. She was my distraction–which at the time, was the best medicine I could have asked for or needed. She saved me, she really did. Suddenly, all that had happened and all that was happening–none of it mattered. Only her. She was the light of my life. Proof that there was still some good left in the world. She and her mother moved in with us when she was a couple of months old and it was like a big new adventure. It changed everything. And I loved it. I loved hurrying home from school just to see that beautiful little face of hers. In a way, she was ours. Mine. Her mother well…let’s just say that her mother was young. And a little selfish. She wasn’t really ready to grow up and take on the full responsibility of being a parent. Neither was my brother. So while they had their fun, we took care of her. Myself included. Believe it or not, I didn’t really mind the late-night feedings, diaper changes, and lullaby-sessions. Or taking turns for hours walking around with a screaming, fussy baby. Or having to watch Elmo in Grouchland EVERY SINGLE NIGHT for 2 years straight because it was something she HAD to watch before she went to bed. I loved it all. I loved knowing that she needed me. And knowing that there was nowhere else in the world that I would have rather been. But most of all, I just loved knowing that I was there, to see it all. I felt lucky. I still do. More than anything. Because I was there. Because I had her. I helped raise her, to make her into who she is today–and she did the same in return. That little brown-eyed little baby changed me. And I’m better for it. I know I am.
I don’t regret being there. Or feel that I missed out on being a teenager. I really don’t. I mean, when she was born, I’d already been forced to grow up fast, with no choice in the matter whatsoever. So even what might have mattered before–the parties, the hanging out, the fun–all that paled in comparison to her. To taking care of her. My friends, surprisingly enough, were very understanding about it. They were very supportive, especially when things got complicated–her mother and my brother got angry and tried to use her as a bargaining chip by threatening to move out and take my niece with them if they didn’t get what they wanted. They did that often enough that it started to become a tug of war really. Literally. There was one time when it got really bad with the threats and everything and I lost it. I’d had enough of standing back and watching them use my niece as an object or a tool to control everyone and everything around them. They didn’t care that they were taking her out of the only home that she’d ever known, away from the people that cared and loved her, and dragging her into their “here and there, always on the go” self-centered world. They didn’t care about HER. And I couldn’t take it. So once, (she was about 6 months or so) when they packed up their things (for like the hundredth time) I grabbed her. And I didn’t let go. I remember that my brother tried to fight me for her, to take her from me. I also remember that he broke my arm in the process. Not that I noticed. I didn’t even feel the pain until it was all over. Adrenaline, it’s a great thing, as we all know. But broken arm or not, it was worth it because I didn’t let him have her. He eventually gave up and left. It was shortly after that incident that my mother and grandmother decided to go to Family Court and petition for custody of her. It was a long, ruthless battle–but she stayed with us throughout the entire thing, which was good. And once it was finally all over and the fighting had stopped, the judge granted the petition and she was ours. And has been ever since. I’m not going to lie. It was hard. I went to school, helped take care of her–and that was pretty much it. There wasn’t really time for hanging out with my friends or doing whatever else teenagers do at that age. If I did, she usually went with me. I brought her with me to cheer for friends at soccer games, on walks with friends–she was even there for my grand march for my prom. She was my little side-kick. I don’t regret any of that. Not then, and definitely not now. I couldn’t imagine it being any other way. Of not having her always around. Of not being there. I didn’t miss anything. I was there for all her birthdays and holidays and first trips to the zoo and the beach and vacations. I was there for her first tooth, losing her first tooth, crawling, her first steps, first words, first day of school…everything. I didn’t and haven’t missed a thing. And I’m so thankful for that. I go crazy if I don’t see her all the time. It’s so mushy and corny, but I think one of the hardest things was being away when I went away to school. I was only an hour away, but it felt like an ocean sometimes. I missed her like crazy. It’s silly, but I felt like she was going to grow up and I wouldn’t be there to see it. Like I said…silliness. That didn’t happen, of course. But being away was hard. Which is why I love being so close now.
Anyhow, fast forward and here we are, eight–nearly nine–years later and she’s growing up. She’s changed so much since those baby days. And keeps changing. But in a lot of ways, she’s still my same little Angelbug. She loves to talk. A lot. She’ll talk your ear off if you let her. She’ll TELL you off, even. She’s still curious as ever and is constantly asking questions about everything and everything. Before we watch a movie together, I literally have to tell her that there are no questions allowed until the end of the movie–or else, 1.) I’ll never see the movie and 2.) I’ll lose my sanity before the movie is even 1/4 of the way through. 🙂
She’s a lot like me. Which scares the hell out of me sometimes, but it’s true. She’s stubborn and willful and opinionated—VERY opinionated. She can definitely hold her own in a debate, that’s for sure. She’s creative and quirky and gets frustrated when something just doesn’t look the way she wants it to. She loves reading books and watching movies that are sooo not age-appropriate. (Guess it’s my fault for thinking it was cute when she memorized the lyrics to Unfaithful at age 3 lol) She’s a brat, but I love her. Even though she’s in this phase where all she wants is what she wants and I swear that if she rolls her eyes at me once more I’m going to glue her eyes shut–that phase–I still love her. I love when she grabs my makeup bag and can apply eyeliner like a pro–even though I have to play the adult and tell her to go wash it off. I love when she calls me and asks “how’s things going with whats-his-name” (when she knows darn well what “his” name is) or simply “whats up”. For an 8-year-old, she’s a great go-to for relationship advice. She is. Just the other day I asked for her opinion on something and she goes “whatever it is, he’s wrong and you’re right ’cause you’re the girl–so you’re in the clear JoJo.” If that’s not the cutest thing, I don’t know what is. She’s the best. She’s a best friend and my niece all in one. She’s amazing. And growing up too fast. Scares me to pieces that in just a few years, she’ll be in high school and wanting to skip school or smoke cigarettes or dye her hair some crazy color. That she’ll be calling me up and venting about some stupid boy who broke her heart, expecting me to say something funny or to somehow fix it. Or that she’ll be telling me off and wanting nothing to do with her stupid “old” aunt who couldn’t possibly understand what it’s like to be 16 years old…just things like that. But for right now, she’s still my little Angelbug. Attitude and all. Love her….
And maybe some lyrics…
ARTIST: Rascal Flatts
TRACK: “My Wish”
I hope the days come easy and the moments pass slow,
And each road leads you where you wanna go.
And if you’re faced with a choice, and you have to choose,
I hope you choose the one that means the most to you.
And if one door opens to another door closed,
I hope you keep on walkin’ till you find the window.
If it’s cold outside, show the world the warmth of your smile.
But more than anything, more than anything…
My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to.
Your dreams stay big, your worries stay small.
You never need to carry more than you can hold.
And while you’re out there getting where you’re getting to,
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too.
Yeah, this, is my wish.
I hope you never look back, but you never forget.
All the ones who love you, in the place you left.
I hope you always forgive, and you never regret.
And you help somebody every chance you get.
Oh, you find God’s grace, in every mistake,
And always give more than you take.
But more than anything, yeah, more than anything…
This is my wish, for you…