My first husband had the most remarkable wing-man in his three-year-old nephew. From the moment I laid eyes on the little tyke, he had me wrapped around his little finger. He was such an unexpectedly integral part of our courtship. If there was ever a rough patch or a moment of doubt, somehow he was there to remind us of the ties that were already binding us, to remind us of the possibilities life held. “They” came in to the book store where I was working to ask me out for the first time. As perfectly polished as it had undoubtedly been rehearsed many times, this little boy, holding tight to his uncle’s hand grins up at me (already pleased with himself) “Hey pretty lady”. Well, forevermore. Who could resist that?
We spent most of our time with the sister, brother-in-law, and nephew. We went from dating to married and expecting. We watched as the little boy turned from three to four. I still remember the red tricycle he got on that sunny fall birthday, and watching him ride it with that same impish grin that greeted me in the bookstore.
The day before Maggie Ann came into this world, they were preparing to move to a state far south and worlds away from where we were. Uncle and nephew played, laughed, slept, and then did it all over again. It was as if the world were standing still just for them. The day we spent in labor, they spent packing up their moving van and waiting for her arrival to say, “Hello”, and also to say “Goodbye”. As my sister-in-law and brother-in-law were marveling at our newborn, they greeted her, and then said to their little boy, “This is your cousin, Maggie.” He took one look and said, “Gross! Why is she all covered in gunk like that?” There is no wonder at the miracle of birth in a four-year-old’s eyes.
I was so happy to have them there! And then, through my postpartum haze, I realized that we were saying “goodbye.” We all hugged and said the things that people say to stave off the sorrow of what’s happening, when the reality is too painful. Little arms squeezed my neck, “Bye, Auntie Dawn”. Uncle and nephew clung to each other, and then they were gone. My heart still breaks for that young man who wept as he held his newborn daughter, “The happiest day of my life and the saddest day of my life both happened on the same day.”
That little boy with the impish grin became a grown man… with an impish grin. On my 46th birthday, I received a message from him saying simply, “Happy Birthday Auntie Dawn! Love ya!” It was a gift, and, of course I teared up.