I am extremely lucky to be an aunt to eight little girls. Though we are related, they are not technically my nieces. Yet as far as they've ever known, they are my girls - one hundred percent. I was instantly smitten when the eldest of them was born and I've never looked back. It's been an awesome ride.
To say I love them fiercely is a massive understatement. I love them with a raw ferocity that overwhelms and astounds me. It is an unwavering affection coupled with feral protectiveness. It is a love that wants to propel them into healthy, happy futures and to help mold them into strong, confident people. My commitment to them is steadfast and wholehearted; I'd sacrifice anything to help them thrive.
Wren loved me the way that I love my nieces. Both in childhood and adulthood, I could count on her to be behind me. She taught me when to fight and when to forgive. I went to her for advice and a sympathetic ear countless times. Sometimes I got a pep talk, sometimes I got a kick in the butt. I always got what I needed. She didn't just love me and support me, she armed me with knowledge and perspective and hope. I try really hard to do that for the girls, even though they're awfully young for some of what I preach.
Every few days or so, my thoughts return to a conversation I had with one of the girls. In hindsight, I'm simultaneously amazed at my own wisdom and worried that a different answer might have been better. The exchange took place over a year ago, when five year old Maura was determined to keep me from catching my flight home. Each time I picked up my luggage and made to leave, she'd screech "I forgot something!" Thus far she had successfully mooched extra hugs, a joke, and an off the cuff limerick out of me while her parents rolled their eyes in the background. I was half-way out the door when she launched another offensive. "WAIT!" she hollered in a panic. "You haven't taught me the secrets to life!"
It worked. Dropping my bag, I waved off her parents' objections and scooped her into my arms. "This is important, so you've gotta listen really carefully, okay?" I asked. She nodded solemnly. "There are three secrets to life. Number one, trust your gut. Listen to your head, listen to your heart and do what's best for you. If something doesn't feel right, pay attention to that feeling. Other people can offer insight, but the final decision is yours. You already have everything you need to make the right choices for you. Trust that.
"Number two, be kind to others. Sometimes life is hard, we can help each other. Remember though, trust your gut first. You don't have to be nice or helpful to anyone who gives you bad vibes."
Maura nodded knowingly. "Yeah, like creepy people,"
"Right. The third secret to life is just one word: BELIEVE. Believe in your dreams, believe in everyday magic, believe in yourself, believe in hope, believe, believe, believe. When you get discouraged and that feels like a bunch of junk, call me. I'll help you believe again."
And with that I kissed her forehead, told her I loved her, and her mom drove like a crazy person to get me to the airport. Believe it or not, I made that flight. *grin* Barely.