Usually I write about my nannying charges here, but my nieces have been in the forefront of my mind lately so I feel compelled to write about them. I must preface this by saying that Yes, I love their three brothers and my other sister's two boys, and the time will come when I write about them, too.
Lily and Marielle, age 11 and age 4, daughters of my oldest sister, are so dear to me. They live in Pennsylvania, 5 and 1/2 hours away from my home and I miss them and think of them every day. A few weekends ago they were in Maine, only 3 hours from my home, and my husband and I went to visit for three days. It was glorious to be in a cabin on the lake, spend our days boating and tubing and fishing and looking for salamanders, and fall asleep to the sounds of the coyotes howling. A welcome retreat and wonderful visit with my sister and her family.
One morning, after breakfast at the local diner, I was quickly led to the back yard near the lake by Marielle. When I asked what adventure she was taking me on she replied "Salamander Searching! Let's go!" Now, mind you, this is the little girl who just the night before had changed into a "swingy skirt like auntie's" for proper dancing around the living room. Multifaceted and complex, my Mari is. So, we searched for salamanders. I lifted every rock in the yard while Mari looked under it. "Auntie, do you know what salamanders look like?" "I think so... Do they kind of look like tiny lizards?" "Yeah... Well, kind of like frogs, but long and thin and sticky." I love her descriptions. Remember, she is only 4. So, after we had exhausted the rocks, I suggested checking under a log, and there he was, a 'sally' as Mari lovingly referred to him (according to Mari, there are only boy sallys). So, for five minutes we played with the sally. He crawled up Mari's arm, swam in the "swimming pool" we constructed for him in the bottom of a sandcastle mold, climbed the stick we placed in the sandcastle mold, and was shown to everyone who would look. Then came time to let him go. Mari was not so sure about this, but I told her we would put him right back where we found him so that we could remember where he was and go back and find him again later if she liked. This seemed to please her and thus, sally was returned to his rightful home.
Swingy skirts and salamanders. Two things I also loved as a little girl. This is when I started catching glimpses of my younger self in my nieces.
It was harder to pin Lily down for one-on-one time, but we chatted over grapes, pb&j, and orange juice. Lily is not so sure about switching from public school to private school this year. I tried to reassure her that she is charming, lovely, brilliant, creative, athletic, and has an innate gift for gab. She said, "yeah..." I told her I believe in her and I am proud of her, and no matter what I think she is phenomenal. I hugged her and she pried her hands out of her pockets and hugged me back. Then I remembered, I too was 10 1/2, nearly 11, when my family moved and I started a new school in the middle of fifth grade. Funny how life works in cycles. Changing schools was really hard and awkward, but I made it through. I must send Lily a little snailmail love note and inform her of this newly found similarity between us. I learned much from changing schools and if she asks I will share the wisdom that comes from having already lived it.
My favorite moment of the weekend was just divine! Mari was eating pistachios on the screen porch while Lily started giving me a manicure on the open air deck. Mari was interested in what we were doing. So, I held Mari while Lily did her nails. Then Lily did my nails. There were giggles and girl talk between us girls ages 4, 10 and 27. I am learning that females are fundamentally the same no matter the age. Mari sat in my lap curling a strand of my hair around her finger remarking how similar my hair is to her mommy's and how my clothes are even soft like Mommy's, too. Then she jumped up and proclaimed that she would like to brush my hair and she did! At that moment I was truly, devastatingly, happy. Really, what more could a girl ask for, but the August sunshine in Maine, the company of girlies she loves, free pampering better than any she has ever had at the spa, her "hairstylist" occasionally alternately popping pistachios and sun-warmed Maine blueberries in her mouth, giggles, and freely given pure love that she is free to purely give right back.
I love my girls <3