Megs and I sat on the floor tonight, stacking Megablocks and shamelessly bribing Noah with animal crackers to get him to walk between us unassisted. The rest of the family was in the kitchen, finishing dinner and setting the table, putting the last touches on the birthday celebration of our favorite one year old, who tonight giggled his way on wobbly legs across the living room, to me and then to Megs and then to me and then to Megs.
“And you were worried you weren’t going to know what to do with him,” Megs scoffed at me as Noah, my sweet neph-in-love, tumbled into my arms and I kissed his cheek, both of us laughing.
I couldn’t have guessed a year ago the kind of relationship I would have with this tiny person. Because a year ago, I didn’t know how to change a diaper, or size baby clothes, or break down a banana in a way that prevented it from being a choking hazard. I feared I would drop him, or not know what to say to him, or generally cause him some kind of irreparable harm. A year ago, I was worried.
The thing is, though, I had nothing to worry about. Noah and I just flat like each other, and I know this to be true. Because even on my worst days, when anxiety has kicked me into seeking isolation and I can’t stand the thought of being around people, I’m always excited to see him. And because even on his worst days, when he’s tired from cutting teeth or having a cold, his face lights up when I come into his house. And because even when he can’t tell me himself, his mom, wonderful BFF that she is, tells me almost every day, “Gosh, he just loves you so much!”
And while it probably shouldn’t anymore, the kind of relationship I have with this tiny person surprises me.
Noah’s my buddy. He’s my pal. And today is his birthday. So, this day requires celebration.
Dear Noah, today I celebrate you. You are curious and eager as you discover and explore, and you’re reminding me to live in the world with eyes wide open. You’re starting to walk now and you get up quickly after you fall down, and I suspect this will be a character trait we see play out throughout your life. And you aren’t afraid to belly-laugh when something strikes you funny, and that laugh is as beautiful a piece of music as any symphony that Beethoven composed. You enjoy being in the company of the people whom you love, and let me just say as someone whom you love, there is no greater gift.
Dear Noah, today I celebrate being your aunt. I was a different person a year ago, rougher around the edges and spread too thin by too many people and too many activities. But you, dear nephew, have forced me to soften and reconsider what’s important. Showing up for the people you love, and being counted on by them for support and encouragement and truth-telling: these things are important. Thank you for reminding me. Thank you for teaching me that sometimes the best relationships don’t need a lot of words. The best relationships are the ones filled with kindness and hope and a whole lot of laughing. The best relationships are the ones that allow God to show up and surprise you.
Happy 1st birthday, dear Noah! You’re the best surprise of my life.
All my love, Auntie A