My Nieces by Debra HollandLast Saturday I took a road trip with my brother, sister-in-law, and three nieces to attend my cousin’s graduation from the University of Santa Barbara. We left extra early to avoid the heavy traffic in Santa Barbara and still have time to make stops along the way.
The trip was the longest amount of time I’d spent in a car with my nieces, age 10, 7, and 4, (about three hours each way.) I have to admit it was a learning experience, filled with interesting snippets of conversation. The first part of the journey passed quietly. Christine, the eldest, had her headphones on, and Kelsey (middle) and Kimmie (littlest) drew in their coloring books.
When we reached the Hollywood freeway, my brother started pointing out landmarks. One tall building had Kelsey declaring, “When you get to the top, you’re close to the sun.”
Although the girls remained vigilant, they didn’t see any movie stars, which disappointed them. Christine, especially, wanted to stop and hunt some down. Although they did become excited when they spotted the Hollywood Sign. That’s when I realized that I’d driven this freeway many times, and never once looked for the sign. Never even thought to look for it. That saying about seeing things through the eyes of a child really is true.
Kimmie earnestly colored a picture of Cinderella. She’d hold two crayons up and ask me to pick which color she should use on each part. Sometimes her choices would have made the real Cinderella cringe. But I thought the princess looked nice with green hair. Purple just wouldn’t have worked with the orange dress.
Kimmie is fascinated by family relationships, especially the one between her father and myself. Earlier when I’d arrived at their house, she’d announced to Tim, “Your sister is here.” Then she’d said to me, “Say hello to your brother.” Then later on the road, she told me, “You used to be the big sister, then Daddy grew up, and now he’s your big brother.” (Which is true. He’s 6’3”.)
At one point Kimmie looked up from her drawing and asked, “Daddy, are you going to be alive forever?”
Tim, busy driving, didn’t hear her.
I wanted to be truthful with her, but I also didn’t want to give her any anxiety about the idea of Daddy dying. “No one is going to live forever,” I answered.
Kimmie seemed to accept that reply without showing signs of stress. Kelsey, who has a scientific mind, chimed in, “I know who lives forever ... rocks.”
“No, not even rocks.” I said. ”Eventually they wear down, too. Where do you think sand comes from?”
Kelsey thought some more. “The earth doesn’t die.” Then she reconsidered. “No, eventually the sun is going to explode. But it’s not going to happen for a long, long time.”
We arrived early in Santa Barbara and had lunch in a restaurant on the beach next to the campus. While we waited for our meal, Kelsey looked around the table and asked, “Dad, do you realize you are surrounded by girls?”
Tim, who once told me he lives in a world of pink, adroitly answered. “Yeah, I’m a lucky guy. I don’t know any other guys who are surrounded by such beautiful girls.”
After the graduation ceremony, we headed to a small park by the beach. We spread out a blanket, and the girls changed from dresses into shorts. They ran off to play in the sand, while Tim and I got drinks and popcorn from a nearby restaurant. When we returned, Kelsey summoned Tim to look at her architectural creation--a mound bristling with sticks and shells.
My sister-in-law, Shannon, Christine, and I relaxed, until Shannon started to make trouble by tossing a piece of popcorn at a nearby seagull. At first the bird was vary of us, but a few more pieces took care of the fear. Tim came back and caught Christine throwing popcorn. “Christy, don’t feed the seagulls,” he chided. He joined us on the blanket, and Shannon winked at me and threw some more popcorn. Nothing like giving parental mixed messages. By this time a mob of birds had descended on us. We kept feeding them, while Tim muttered about “flying rats.” Once our food ran out, the girls had fun chasing the birds. Although the original gull kept returning, hoping for more handouts. I think he had a thing for Christine.
At another part of the day, Kimmie looked up at me and asked, “Aunt Deb, are you going to get married?”
(This is a question each girl in turn has asked when she was about four or five. They’d really like a chance to be bridesmaids.)
“But you have to have children.”
“No I don’t. I have nieces.”
Kimmie looked distressed. “But I already have a mommie and daddy. You need your own children.”
I laughed and gave her a hug. “But, I have you and your sisters. What more could I possible want?”