Wednesday, March 11, 2009


By the end of tomorrow, both my nephew, NWTP, and my niece, MAR, will have gone under the knife to have their tiny tonsils removed. NWTP was well enough the day after surgery to crave toast, and MAR is exuberant at the notion that she can "eat all the popsicles I want and then SOME MORE!" I have strong olfactory memories of Hawaiian Punch, so strong that the smell of it even now transports me back to Upstate Medical Center, the teaching hospital affiliated with the state medical school. On the phone tonight my mom said, "I hope she comes through this better than you did." "What happened to me?" I asked. And then my mom told me the story of the blood clot at the surgery site rupturing while I was in recovery, which resulted in my appearing to vomit blood uncontrollably. I was rushed back up to surgery to have the incision cauterized a second time. Suddenly my older sister's story of being so afraid that I was going to die that she walked tens of miles from our home to the hospital (in the snow, uphill both ways) to visit me because my parents wouldn't (couldn't?) bring her. I know the surgery was preceded by three hospitalizations for severe infections accompanied by 105 degree fevers and trips to the emergency room. I remember visiting our pediatrician, Dr. Cantor, so often that I became bored with the fish tank and the games and the same old tired books in the waiting room. My tonsils were what young doctors call "a finding" and I distinctly remember medical students being endlessly rotated into my exam room to peer into my throat.


It was good to hear stories of my childhood as told by my mom, however briefly. My memories of growing up are, like everyone else in the world, skewed towards a particular worldview. In this case, my world view is undoubtedly affected by my child's understanding of the break-up of my parents' marriage, which was happening at around this time. You know the rap - either the break-up was my fault or I was going to be left alone because both of my parents hated me. I felt comforted hearing my mom talk about rubbing my back as I rested in recovery, and hearing her recollections of being afraid when I was rushed back into surgery. I have a different understanding of my sister's story of walking to the hospital (seriously, like seven miles) in the snow to visit me because she was so afraid I was going to die. (Or maybe she thought mom and dad were fighting so much that they couldn't possibly be paying attention to me?) Regardless, I understand that place of sisterly caring just a little differently tonight. And I'm grateful.

Dream Aunt

The week before my oldest niece, CMR, started Kindergarten I took her out for "Special Aunt Clownface/CMR Day." I took her for her first mani/pedi (she had her nails painted blue with daisies painted on them), we went to lunch (Friendlys), then we went to a nearby state park and played chase (her idea), and wrapped up with a trip to the craft store where she picked a new craft kit that we did together.

She is now 8 and deep into the second grade and we haven't had another "Special Aunt Clownface/CMR Day" since. Until this week. When I pull her out of school on Friday. We set our agenda by phone today.

Step one: Have breakfast with Gammie (that's grandma to the rest of the world).
Step two: Go have our nails done (this went over VERY VERY big two years ago).
Step three: Go to Syracuse's Everson Museum of Art to see the Central New York Scholastic Art Fair Exhibit, which goes up on Friday.
Step four: Go out to lunch.
Step five: Make art together at Gammie's house or her cousin's house or her own house - if we feel so inspired.

I suggested the museum to CMR's mom by email, who then asked the wee one if she was interested (she apparently recently read a book about a little girl who goes to an art museum independent of this plan being hatched). When I told CMR I wanted to take her to the museum to see art made by teenagers from her town I could hear her eyes pop out of her head. She said to me "Do you mean someday I could have art hanging in a museum?" "Yes Little Bear, someday YOU could have art hanging in a museum. Let's go see what kind of art is good enough to hang in a museum!"

I feel like a great aunt because I get to help CMR have a unique experience that will open windows and doors to her imagination and stoke her aspirations.

I have six nieces and nephews. CMR is the first so she gets to have these types of experiences before anyone else in the passel of little people who are being raised by my sisters. I hope I can sustain this type of effort for each of them, so they can come to know how fantastic they are as individuals - and I can feel as if I've had a little role in helping them unfold themselves into this world.