Yesterday, my niece, Alexandra, turned 21.
My brother, the father of two, says that no one wants to hear about other people's kids. He says the people who love those particular kids are the only ones interested in the minutia of the kids' existence, and, thus, has never been tempted to thrust upon others unsolicited tidbits of his daughters' lives. He knows that the people who want information will ask, and that only about half of those inquiring are merely feigning interest out of a sense of duty or politeness.
I believe that he is correct. I also I believe that the rule about not boring people with child-oriented tales applies solely to the parents of that child. And I further believe that as an aunt, I am actually honor bound to torture strangers and friends held captive by circumstance or etiquette with what I perceive to be fascinating anecdotes about this precious person. And I'm going with that.
I love the person Alexandra is. I always have. She's a remarkable woman who started out as remarkable little girl. She has always been kind and generous of heart. Even when she was exceedingly short, she abhorred a bully and she has never suffered an injustice silently, especially when she saw it perpetrated on another being. She was barely walking on her own the first time she befriended someone who needed a friend, and she's been doing it ever since. And, like her father and her aunt, she doesn't suffer fools lightly, but she allows people to fully establish themselves as shit heads before she walks away.
Among her other attributes, Alexandra has a rather twisted sense of humor that leans decidedly toward the perverted. This is a woman who came to a huge party at our house carrying a bag tucked carefully, but firmly, under her arm. When I went to take it from her, she looked mildly panicked and pulled me aside. She had grabbed the bag, without thinking, she said, as she ran out the door. She was mortified when she realized that she had taken this bag because she was worried that it might offend one of our completely wasted and unquestionably inappropriate friends. She moved her arm to reveal the picture printed on the bag: A brightly colored rainbow danced between white, fluffy clouds, under which a beautiful purple unicorn stood humping another equally beautiful green unicorn, with just enough penis showing to make it all truly magical.
Note that she did actually purchase the bag.
This kid kills me.
Interestingly, the penis thing goes way back to her pre-perverted sense of humor. When Alexandra was four years old, she asked me if we could have one of our chats. Without a moment’s hesitation, I scooped her up. I loved these chats. We dove onto the sofa and snuggled in for a nice, long session. We chattered and giggled, told fabricated secrets and planned imaginary events. She told me about all of the kids in nursery school and described in grand detail what this boy looked like and what that girl traditionally brought on her assigned snack day. Alexandra, a talented mimic, played the part of each child, flamboyantly replicating accents and mannerisms with the detail and care of a studied artist.
When she'd finished telling me about The New Boy and how cute he was, she snuggled in close to me, an impish smile overtaking her face, and cupped my face in her tiny hands. Looking me square in the eyes, she said, "We like penises, don't we?"
"Penises," she giggled. "We like them, don't we?" Giggle, giggle.
Holy shit! I am not prepared for this, I think, frantically seaching for some kind of response. She was looking at me, little hands firmly in place, giggling, waiting.
My thoughts simply would not settle on the issue of penises and whether we liked them.
This is something her parents should deal with, not me, I thought, nary a penis in sight, so to speak. A parent is for this stuff, for dealing with questions…if this is handled incorrectly or indelicately, I could cause…oh, shit, who knows?…all kinds of irreparable damage, causing…shit, I don't know, all kinds of scarring and...
Just then, her mother walked past the doorway.
"Friederike, wait! Alexandra just asked me if we like penises," I heard myself whispering ridiculously loudly.
She chuckled, rolled her eyes and, calling Alexandra by her nickname, said, "Funny Hubie."
"No, wait! Don't go! What do I say?" Why am I whispering, I do wonder, since Alexandra is nearer to me than her mother is? The whisper is that horrible whisper-shout thing obnoxious people tend to do in an effort to be cute or sneaky or something equally annoying.
Friederike never even broke stride. She kept walking, flashing her I-thought-you-were-smarter-than-this look at me and said, "Oh, no, she's all yours."
I turned back to that precious smiling face. Crap, she's still here.
Alexandra immediately replanted her hands on my cheeks while firmly pulling herself up onto her knees.
"Don't we." Giggle.
My brother sauntered by. "WAIT!! WHAT DO I SAY?" By now the whisper-shout had evolved into a kind of shrill, wounded animal-sounding whine, making it more of a whisper-shout-scream. The sound made Alexandra and her father laugh out loud.
"Hey, you wanted to be the aunt. You know what to tell her," my dear brother chuckled as he walked off.
What the fuck does that mean, I wanted to be the aunt? And how do I know what to tell her? I could absolutely do this little girl in emotionally without ever meaning to. The chances are really good that I'll say the completely wrong thing---I'm only an aunt! I’m pretty sure I only thought all of this and hope to God I didn’t actually say it, but it’s hard to be sure.
"I'm supposed to feed her crappy food and take her shoe shopping! I can't be responsible!" This, I said out loud. It mattered not, though. I heard him chuckle again, from very, very far away.
Jesus, this just can't end well, I thought, oddly, in the same grating whisper-shout-scream.
Slowly turning back toward her, I saw my sweet girl looking at me, her precious little face wearing a huge grin.
“I can do this. This is absurd. If they trust me to do this, then I can do this,” I said under my breath.
"Okay.” Inhale. Make eye contact. Exhale. “What do you mean, Honey, that we like penises?" Okay. This is okay. Inhale.
"I mean that we like boys and boys have penises."
"Uh-ha. Yeah..." Exhale.
"Girls don't, you know. Have penises, I mean."
"Oh. Okay.” Makes sense. “Yes, that's true..."
"Well, and if boys have penises, and we like boys, then we like penises, too. Right?"
Wow. That's really logical thinking. That makes perfect sense. This is an amazing child. I realized that I’m no longer whisper-shouting-screaming in my head.
"Yes, Honey, that's right."
"Hmmm," she said thoughtfully, stroking my cheeks gently. "Soooo, can we have ice cream now?"
Alexandra, I hope I haven't embarrassed you, as I suspect I’m inclined to do without much effort. I love this story and I treasure the memory of that day. I saw that you would hold true to the course you assumed at the beginning of your existence, a course that would lead you to think about all kinds of amazing things, to question and ponder the wonders of the delicious world around you. You are kind and funny and brilliant and beautiful, and since your arrival, the world is a brighter, happier place for me.
We love you dearly.
I'm thinking the next story I tell about you ought to be non-penis specific...