I was in std 7 when my oldest sister gave birth to my first niece. The first grandchild of the future generation. A little bundle of much anticipated joy. My life changed forever that day. I became an aunt.
With that responsibility, I realised that I was a keeper of space. A 14 year head start on my tumble through the planet. This role was different from being big sister, because I wasn’t expected to look after her, nor share my bedroom with her. I could offer to do these things which made the relationship with her, easier. The pressure was off me. But there was a queue of volunteers to hold her, feed her and entertain her. However the nappy changing queue was a lot shorter.
I remember looking at my sister differently and wondering how she felt being a new mum but her eyes were too wide with surprise to go into a philosophical discussion. Fortunately my mum, granny, was on hand to weave her magic and I would slip back into my (shared) bedroom to listen to my music.
My niece was a bundle of giggles and a real joy to watch. She charmed everyone with her presence as we all stared into that wordless space where she seemed to be entertaining a different dimension. She began to talk about this dimension and her ‘friend ‘ as soon as as could form words. I was intrigued but not surprised. I had my own awareness that I felt in the depths of music. Her friend became part of the family and I was glad my sister didn’t discourage her in any way, and amused when I heard she had to set a place at the table for her friend.
Life happened and I had my gap year and the small family moved overseas and my niece grew into a remarkable, capable and bubbly young lady. After studying teaching ( a job at which she is a complete natural) she became a mum herself. A concept which would have baffled my brain, had it not been for the internet and me being able to see this for myself. This new label of being a great aunt, was softened by the realisation that my niece is a damn fine mum, and I marvel at her capacity and ability to raise two well mannered, lovely, energetic and fabulous young lads on her own.
Grandma and Grandpa do their bit too, but this niece of mine doesn’t understand how me, as a non-parent ( who shies away at this kind of constant responsibility) marvels at her vocation as a mum.
Her birthday reminds me of the impact she had and still has on my life, and I am truly honoured to be able to call her niece.