Sunday, June 22, 2014


Mark and Christian -- a long time ago!
At least that's how Ellie pronounces it.

This weekend, my nephew "gradumated" from high school. It didn't really sink in until I saw him in his cap and gown -- then the tears started. Christian was the first nephew I ever had. Technically, he was Mark's nephew, and I was just lucky enough to adopt him as my nephew when we got married. He was 6-years-old when Mark and I met.

I wasn't exactly sure how to relate to boys. But I soon learned that he was the same as most kids and was content as long as I was doing whatever he wanted, like following him on a mountain hike in my flip flops or spending hours playing whatever game he wanted to play and letting him win.

Since Mark and I didn't have kids yet, we treated Christian like our own and practiced our parenting skills early, you know, skills like just playing all day and never disciplining him (he never misbehaved anyway), taking him to movies, letting him stay up all night playing video games, and letting him eat whatever he wanted, then sending him home to his mom simultaneuosly tired and on some kind of sugar high.

"Isn't being an aunt grand!?" I thought. We continued the same traditions with nieces and nephews to follow.

There was so much time to just have fun and play. We could be kids with them. I even spent an entire week sorting through Mark's closet, finding old medieval-themed decorations and Christmas lights to create a castle-like room for Christian and the other nephews. Behind the bookshelf in Mark's room was a secret space, dubbed the "secret room" over the staircase. I decorated it with antique maps made by soaking paper in tea. I took an old gun rack and filled the drawers with little trinkets like marbles and Legos. I had all the time in the world then to just create for fun.

That summer, it was 90+ degrees in that third-floor secret room, but we would sit in there for hours playing Legos, playing marbles, talking, and reading.

A few months ago, when we were staying at Mark's parents, I went in the secret room to find some marbles for Ellie. I hadn't been in there for years. I opened the door, felt the familiar heat wave hit me in the face, and stepped inside. It was dark, so I reached down to flip on the twinkly Christmas lights. I found one of Christian's Lego spaceships. Maybe one of the other kids had been playing in there recently, but I could have sworn that's where we left it 10 years ago.

Everything else was exactly where we left it, too -- the first Harry Potter book left off the bookshelf, some randomly placed marbles. Yet, my little buddy was now all grown up, with a promising future ahead. And me with a daughter of my own -- he being the oldest cousin, she, the youngest. It was like stepping into another dimension. I could imagine that nothing ever changed, that time stood still in that tiny secret room for 10 years, and everything after was just a dream.

What if our lives had gone in any number of different directions?

I was sad that I couldn't go back to that moment, but I also felt instantly happy. If I had sat in that room 10 years ago and mapped out what I wanted my future to be -- the job I would have, what my child would be like -- it would have paled in comparison to the life I now know and cherish.

And if I had wished a perfect future for my 8-year-old nephew, it too would have paled in comparison to the life he has created for himself already at 18.

There just isn't a word for how proud we are of him.

May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks!

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