Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Auntie’s Dessert

Auntie’s Dessert
Aimee Pugh

It's been three months since I've seen my nephew Gabriel. That's about 1/6 of his total earthly time and less than 1% of mine, but I can't remember a longer three months. My sister Beth calls and tortures me, “Gaby was asking about you today.” Or, “Every morning after breakfast, Gaby turns around in his highchair and screams ‘NeeNi!’ (that's nay-neee) at your picture.” She keeps me up to date on G's activities in MI: Playtime with Meemee (Emily, his babysitter, and my only rival so far) including the recent hat-ing ceremony that involved painting gorgeous coffee filter hats for all his animals , Gordon, Guillaume, Garett, Gina, Cat That Fastens with Velcro Around Neck (I didn't name that one); Feeding Big Fish (who replaced Griselda, the aging writer-fish who someone overfed); and most recently, G swimming. He may be a picky eater and close to vegetarian (that's my nephew!, but G is a shark in the water.

Little G, who is closing in on my own shoe size as you read this, is one of the most important people in my life. The first time I saw him was the first time I had ever seen a newborn- that wasn't in a photo, on film, or on TV. Visiting Gabriel for the first time, I quietly felt the divine. This small shell curled in Beth's arms. There were never more beautiful shapes in such a tiny frame. His softly closed almond eyes, clasped hands, the smooth round brow.

By six months, Gabriel was a regular presence in my life as I was renting the 2nd floor, and Beth, Paul, & Gabriel the first, of an old W. Philly Victorian. Before work in the morning Beth would bring G upstairs. She was exhausted after long nights of wake-ups and feedings and was looking for as little as 15 minutes off. We had a few rituals, such as “Power of the Shower.” We'd put Gabriel in his bouncy chair facing the bathtub/shower, Beth would sack-out in my room, and I would talk/sing (?!) words that rhymed with shower while peeking out every minute to make sure he was laughing or staring at his feet. Then I'd bring him back to my room, he'd investigate a milk crate of file folders, Beth would remain falsely asleep, and I would get ready for work. During this time, G would sort of flex his fingers and knead through papers like a seasoned law clerk. As long as there were papers to be rifled, he was happy and B had stolen a few needed minutes of rest.

Between six months and a year, Gabriel also showed an interest in mechanical projects such as pulling and turning all furniture knobs, correcting and replacing dishwasher dial settings, locating and shutting off essential power strips, adjusting portable radio antennas, and an absolute obsession with any and every remote (this would foreshadow his demanding cell phone dialing work of 14-16 months).

Just a couple of weeks ago, Beth sent me a few of G's first drawings. I definitely feel like I've missed out in these last three months. I've got to get back to my every six weeks schedule. “Any time I spend time with Gabriel is like whipped cream,” I used to say to Beth and Paul when they were on the first floor. And it is. It's dessert for me and for G too. That's what's great about being an Auntie. After dancing to Raffi and blowing bubbles for hours, I can still relax before bed and get a good eight hours. And that's the way it should be. Whether living upstairs or in another state, an Auntie gets to adore and be adored.

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