“Hey, Aunt Amalie! How are you?” David’s voice chirped merrily in my ear when he answered the phone the other day. I could hear his twin brother, Jacob, chime in from the background. A wide smile crossed my face. I dearly loved these two boys, my sister’s kids, and although I lived almost 300 miles from them, our bond was intrinsic and primordial, established the instant I laid eyes on them, just days after their birth, 12 ½ years ago.
My sister and brother-in-law went through a great deal to have these children; finally, in vitro gave them the gift of healthy, twin boys, as delightful and beautiful as you can imagine. I fell head over heels in love with them the moment I held them in my arms. Motherhood was not in the cards for me; endometriosis and a series of related surgeries rendered me unable to have children but I suspected I was not cut out for the role of “Mommy.” However, these two boys summoned powerful emotions in me, to protect, love, teach, and adore and I have been an active participant in their lives.
As twins, David and Jacob couldn’t be more different. Jacob is laid back, easy-going, with a gorgeous smile and spectacular white-blond hair. His penchant for building complex projects out of Legos leads me to believe he will someday be an architect or urban planner.
David could be my child. Passionate, willful, emotional and sensitive, he is also assertive and determined. I wish I could give him my thick skin, I know he worries what other people think of him. But I also know that experience is the best teacher and I try to guide him judiciously. He is our computer geek as he loves anything having to do with software and all things Apple.
They both crack me up, especially as they approach their 13th birthday. David, especially, is ever conscious of impending Puberty. As I spoke to him on the phone, he asked me, in his still pitch-perfect prepubescent voice, “Aunt Amalie, I think my voice is getting deeper. Do you think my voice is getting deeper? I think it is!”
I answered that of course, I thought it sounded a bit different. Then I couldn’t resist teasing him, and said he better watch out or he was going to walk around sounding all hoarse and crackly. This made him laugh. Then I imitated a deep sounding basso voice and said that the next time I called I wouldn’t recognize his voice as he would probably sound like that! He laughed again but I could sense the excitement in his voice. “They want to grow up so quickly,” I thought.
While shopping the next day, David asked my sister to buy him Axe deodorant and body spray. She looked at him curiously. She had seen the commercials and was surprised that this was a product he would be interested in. But she bought it.
The next morning, David came downstairs for breakfast dressed to kill for school. Spiffy pants and shirt, and positively REEKING of Axe body spray. My sister about wet herself trying not to laugh.
David asked her, “Mom, I used the new Axe stuff. Did I use too much?” Kathy diplomatically asked him where and how he sprayed it. He explained he put his clothes on then sprayed it in an “X” pattern over his shirt, then on his shoulders and under his arms. She calmly explained that she was pretty sure you sprayed it on your body, not your clothes and that you just misted it lightly. She suggested that he change his shirt but David insisted that he had to wear THAT shirt to school today. She told him it would probably wear off by lunch.
Then Kathy looked at him and asked, “So who’s the girl?” David blushed and grinned. “Maria.”
Apparently “Maria” was in his Math Group and was “pretty cool”. Kathy hoped David wouldn’t knock her dead with Eau de Axe.
As my sister related this story to me, I couldn’t help but wonder where the time had gone. What had happened to the chuckling with glee, cherubic babies that had been David and Jacob only yesterday? I remember when I would drive in from Pittsburgh to visit and they would be waiting for me as I opened the front door of their house. They would be holding on to the plastic gate my sister had protecting them from going up the steps to the second floor and their little faces would scarcely clear the top of it. They would peep up at me, not sure at first who I was. I would speak softly, “Hey there, I’m your Aunt Amalie, remember me? Look how big you guys have gotten!” and pretty soon wide, gummy smiles would break across their faces and they would begin to bounce on their feet in a delighted, welcoming jig that only a nine-month-old child can muster. Suddenly, the miles would melt away, recognition flared and the thought of driving back home made me sick at the thought of leaving them. How I loved my boys and how I loved my sister and brother-in-law for bringing them into the world.
I have embraced and relished every moment with them and it is poignant and comical to see them approaching their teenage years. Their wit is quick and they keep me on my feet. But I wish I could fling a lasso on Time and halt their impending Puberty. Let them be children just a while longer. Indulge in innocence and wide-eyed wonder for a year or two more.
I think I’m feeling wistful at the passing of time overall, not just of David and Jacob growing older, but of the passing of time in my own life. I want to say, please, slow down, there is so much left to do, so much left to experience and I need more time! I don’t want to rush the process! And I want my nephews to relish the process of Life, savor it all.
For it all goes by, all too quickly.
I was almost eleven the day Aunt Flo came to visit. I knew all about menstruation, that’s another blog post, but being prepared to have it actually happen to me personally, well, that was another matter all together. But I was precocious, both mentally and physically, and Puberty had its speculative eye on me. I was already experiencing actual, excruciating growing pains, in my chest, where my breasts had begun to sprout into tight little mounds, and in my hips and legs, as they began to lengthen and grow more shapely.
One day, at school, I was seized by severe cramping that made me double over at my desk. The bell had rung and students were rushing to their next class. I couldn’t move or speak and I broke out in a cold sweat. As the pain subsided, I pulled myself out of my desk and stumbled to my next class. I was terrified at what was happening and too scared to go to the nurse or say anything to a teacher. A somewhat neurotic child, I had an overwhelming fear of doctors and anything health-related and my overactive imagination began to consider all kinds of horrible things that could be wrong with me. I suffered in self-induced misery.
I began to panic, and cry. My father came to the door, asking what was wrong. In halting tones, I blurted out that I had started my period. Silence on the other side of the door.
When my mother came home and opened up the basement door from the garage, she found my father and me standing there, waiting for her. Years later, she said we looked like two deer in the headlights. My dad just looked at her and repeated her name, Amy, Amy, and shook his head. My usually articulate father was bereft of words. My mother looked at me and said, Amalie, you certainly do everything with a bang! I began to feel quite grown up and proud of myself then. It wasn’t until years later that I realized with a pang that it was a turning point in my relationship with my father. No longer was I his little girl, his first born that he cradled so carefully in his capable hands. It also wasn’t until much later that I learned to be grateful for the sensitivity and relative stoicism with which he handled the situation, “grace under fire” if you will. But he began to treat me with an almost Old World politeness at times, excusing himself awkwardly if we should run into each other exiting the family bathroom or brush up against each other in the hall. I was a young woman now and we both tried to regain our footing in the new terrain of our relationship.
Interesting, the perspective the years lend the past. I would do any of it over again, really, because the past made me strong, resourceful and helped me identify exactly what it was I wanted to do and become. But I wish I had been happier and less alone. I have to work at being less guarded as an adult. I am lucky to have a wonderful circle of family and friends now. I’ve even let a special person into my heart, but sometimes I have to be cognizant of letting them get closer, to be less independent, because the rich reward of connecting with people and making them a part of your life enhances every aspect of what you do. Winston Churchill said, “Never, never, never give up.” Never forget that someone out there is pulling for you, is thinking about you, loves you, cares about, worries about you. More importantly, it matters that you are in charge of your destiny. The mind and soul are resilient, they can triumph over a great deal.
Sometimes where you are at a given moment in time can be a lonely, barren place and you feel like if you scream, there is no one around to hear you or care. But I’m telling you, scream, and you scream loudly. Do something, write and journal, listen to music, reach out to a teacher or a counselor, grab on to a friend or family member. But do something. Don’t give up, I’m telling you that life is too sweet, there is too much out there to experience, oh, god, the enormity of it all can make me weep, there is so much to see, taste and take in. And you deserve it.