The phone rang not five minutes after leaving the voice mail wishing my niece a HAPPY BIRTHDAY:
“Hello” I said
“Heeey” her southern soft 7 year old drawl replied
“Hey big girl, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” I giddily wished aloud
“THANK YOU!” she said
“Did you have a good day sweetheart?” I asked
“Yes I did, you know what I got?” she asked
“What?” I replied
“I got a gi-u-tar” she said
“A what, honey?” I asked
“A gi-u-tar” she said again, exactly like that.
“You mean a guitar?” I asked
“Yeah, a gi-u-tar” she said
My heart swelled with pride and love at her adorable pronunciation. She told me about her trip to Chuckee Cheese (oh my dog, my poor sister, I commend her on her ability to go there sober), and about all the other gifts she received. She was anxious to get off the phone and enjoy her gifts, and she started to hand me off to her mother, but not before I told her I loved her.
“I love you sweetie” I said
“I love you more so la-la-la-la-la” she said with a self-satisfied little tone
I swallowed the lump in my throat I got because I couldn’t be there to see her say that in person. The 3000 miles that separates us suddenly came into sharp focus.
Brittney was born two months after my pawpaw died. Her birth was exactly the buoyancy we all needed to keep us afloat in our sea of grief of losing him. I remember seeing her and holding her for the first time in the hospital and reeling from the fact that I was an aunt, that my sister was a mother for the first time.
I also remember hating the fact that her name would be Brittney. It was supposed to be Jennifer. Jennifer Ella. But my brother in law suggested it at the last minute and my sister agreed. Gah. Like every other kid in the south isn’t named Brittney. But, I got over it and couldn’t imagine her having any other name.
And it doesn’t make her any less unique, any less intelligent, any less beautiful. She’s got a tender, soft heart, and has blossomed from a timid, shy, little toddler to an exhuberant, articulate (yes at 7 there is such a thing), amazing little girl.
I love every single hair on your gorgeous little head, baby girl.
I wish I could see you more, but I’m glad your mama helps you to never forget who I am.
Happy Birthday angelface.