Yesterday my niece, Grace, turned 11. Grace is my brother Don's youngest child and my first goddaughter. We celebrated her birthday at my brother's house last night, and I spent a lot of my time there thinking how fast she's grown up and how thankful I am to have her in my life.
Since she was a baby Grace and I have had a special bond. For some reason, I was one of the few people she would let hold her without fussing. She had this funny habit, when you would hold her, of holding your ear. I'm sure it was some comforting gesture on her part, but I came to associate that with comfort for me, as well. When she was a baby, I loved little more than to curl into my brother's recliner with her, her tiny fingers clutching my ear, us looking silently but knowingly at one another.
Years later, Grace laughs when I reminisce about these moments between us. She's so on her way to being a young teenager, that it's just humorous for her to think of herself at all as a baby...and I'm finding it's hard for me to think of her that way, too. She's grown up a lot, and really has her own, defined personality, even at 11. There are so many factors of that personality that I admire: she has unbridled enthusiasm, and finds joy in even the simplest of moments. She's a wisecracker, and can be silly by being goofy or through making astute comments. She has a heart of gold, and loves to love. No one gives better hellos or hugs than Grace.
When I asked my sister-in-law for gift suggestions for Grace this year, amongst her ideas Kate suggested that I take Grace out to lunch, because she really does just love time with family. Selfishly, I knew right away that this would be my gift to Grace, because it would in turn be a gift for me. Even if she doesn't hold onto my ear anymore, I am so thankful for all the time that I get to spend with and in the presence of my wonderful niece.