Cousin Joel — I keep calling him “Uncle Joel” — is here! We’re having a blast … well, I am, anyway. I love my nephew so much. It’s more than twenty years ago now, 22 I guess, that I quit my miserable day job to be Joel’s live-in nanny (and full-time auntie). Joel was two-ish, Brittany a babe. I realize, now, what a godsend it must have been for their mama Laurie, to just get up in the morning and go to work without packing up two babies, two lunches, two sets of diapers and clothes, feed breakfasts, strap into carseats, blah blah blah … That whole story was insanely hard the 15 months I did it with my shortie, and I’ve got just the one. But honestly, I never really thought about her experience. From my point of view, the godsent part was all to me. I got to wake up to two beautiful, I mean really gorgeous, little people, every day, for a couple of years. We made blue pancakes weekly, did fingerpainting and clay sculpture, walked to the park and the library, rationed out our one permitted TV session a day (the finest selections available to Betamax. PeeWee’s Playhouse, or The Brave Little Toaster?) Mud pies, dress-up, dioramas, book-making, costumes, time-outs, pony rides. I was a teenager, tattooed and nose-ringed in my Docs and mohawk. I was a frequenter of disarmament and animal-liberation rallies, where I fit right in, but story time at the library? Well, I loved it. I loved being right there, being right then. I loved Joel and Brittany with a purity and intensity that couldn’t have been stronger if they were my own; I mean, they were my own; my niece, my nephew. Yet of course, they weren’t my own – not my life responsibility in the way Echo is. And that mix, “mine” to passionately love, to nurture, to teach, to do right by, to grow with and learn patience, wisdom, forbearance from – but “not mine” when I needed freedom, party time, three punkrawk shows a week, hell-raising and risk-taking and sheer stupidity – that mix was the biggest gift I’ve ever had, the best education I’ve ever had, the sweetest years I’ve ever had.
And now, my babe reaps the rewards along with me. I learned, twenty-plus years ago, that every soul is who they are, and if you are lucky enough to be there with them, to never let a theory or philosophy blind you to who they are. I learned about not just their unfurling souls, but about my own; about being transformed by selfless love, about what it means to be yourself, authentically present, reacting as yourself every moment, whether joyous or stressful. I learned about pacing with a colicky baby and that the words “This hurts me more than it hurts you” can actually be true, about how you suffer from the fact you can’t do the suffering for them. I learned about facing a toddler’s iron will, about how to model, how to teach, and of course, how to screw up again and again and how forgiving life is, and how a sweet goodnight kiss can make so many things right. And, poignantly, I learned – no, I’m learning, now – how swiftly time flies through your fingers, and how that tiny soul, reliant on your love, is there, always, in your mind, yet gone forever, yet right in front of you transformed into an adult. It boggles my tiny brain: this cat in my guest bedroom, the guy I love to talk politics with and sing Quasi songs with and analyze movies with, this self-assured, quietly competent, centered man we’re enjoying hanging out with … Once upon a time, he was a tiny person, starting in life. And I was lucky enough to be there with him.
You know, I had no intention of saying any of that.
Joel and I biked Echo over to school this morning. She was greeted by older kids who flocked to the gate calling her name and embracing her. Honestly, it’s weird the way this child is loved by the kids at her school.
Wednesday is gardening day for the Sunsong class (2 /12 to 3-year-olds). Echo is holding hands with Duncan, from the next class up. The children went through the herb garden, picking medicinal herbs, which they shredded to make a salve with. Echo was the thyme-picker.
As I came over for my goodbye kiss, I got a nice snootful of fresh thyme.
I love her school. Have I mentioned that before?
I love all you guys reading, too. And I hope I’ve mentioned that before, too.