December 11th, 1988....
I have a niece! Breanna Shaye is the lovely, lively child born that day to my gorgeous sis, Tina.
She'd wanted a baby for years, and finally got her wish!
I could say right here how I was always over, helping to do diaper-duty, babysitting, etc.,assisting lovely Tina and Mom("Yia-Yia" is Greek for Grandmother) but it isn't true.
Instead, I was out gallivanting around with my then-boyfriend, a handsome, very intelligent Frenchman.
Yia-Yia was there, helping all along, becoming a bright light for both Tina and Breaz. She still is. For all of us.
It wasn't until Breaz was about 3 years old, that I began to realize how special she--indeed, all little children-- truly are!
I've tried to be there for Breaz as she grew up.
We attended the Dogwood Festivals together;The Atlanta Art Fests; The Celtic Fests, The Greek Fests;read our way through many books at various bookstores; we made brownies together;saw plays and puppet shows together("A Child's Christmas in Wales" was our first play).
I volunteered to go to her 3rd-grade class, Ms. Horwood's(She loved the teacher, but said, "Gee, I'd hate to have that name, and be teaching kids our age...")
I read poetry to the children, and then they wrote some, too.
I watched her rollar-blade.
Went roller-skating at the big birthday bashes her Mom, Tina, always threw for her.
And I saw her practice piano. I attended violin recitals.
When we happened upon a tiny dead bird, we held a funeral for it. "Oh, God, bless this bird who died too young. She was a good bird."
Then we dug a small pit, and buried her in a paper-towel.
When she was around ten, I began a tradition of holding a "Summer Camp" at
my house. It was usually just she & I, and occasionally a girlfriend of hers would join us for the last day or two. "Camp Aunt Lisa" would run a week, sometimes a bit longer,(one year I got her for several weeks!)if I could talk Tina into letting her stay.
We'd go swimmming, sometimes fishing, walk and run the "furry babies"(my Aussie-- Frisco, & Golden-- Louie, who grew up, as Breaz grew up!), baked cakes(she surprised me one year with an embellishment on the cake we'd made, which read "I Love Camp Aunt Lisa"), make homemade creamed corn(her favorite!),ate water-chestnuts out of the can(her idea--but they're pretty tasty!),created homemade spaghetti sauce, played jump-rope, listened to Eminem, burned CD's(Hansoo would do her "yearly list"--back when one could burn CD's), did scrubs and facials so our skin would be perfect,did pedicures and manicures and we collected leaves and flowers for "memory boxes", and we wrote--I asked her to keep a journal of just her feelings.
She later told me she loved keeping a journal, that it made her see she was "alive".That she liked seeing how she felt "back when I was real young."(she said this when she was 11).
I bought her a paint set and canvases. She can really paint!
We took hundreds of photos. Of the dogs. Us. People. Plants.
We videotaped each other...
As I was going up the stairs one day,and she wielded the video-camera,"Gee, Aunt Lisa, you got a J-Lo butt!" she exclaimed, zooming in on my round rear...
"Is that a good thing?"
"Well, she's got a big butt. But on you, it looks okay."
We went bowling(I told her "Gee, this is the only sport I don't suck at." "You're funny Aunt Lisa," she said, adding,"And you don't suck at bowling. You're actually kinda good at it.")
Saw Disney films together(even when she wanted to see "more adult" movies, we saw the Disney stuff).
I watched her cheer at her academy where cheerleading was an actual SKILL that was taught--this was serious stuff, not eyeliner and short skirts. It was gymnastics, and flips, and dance skills, athleticism, and responsibility.
We always finished out the evening with a reading-in-bed. Usually, it was our first favorite, "Curious George". Because it always made us laugh. How Curious George had a name, how the Man in the Yellow Hat, never did.
How it says "little monkey" about thirty times in every "Curious George" episode!
As she entered junior-high school, I saw her less. There was an impending move, as the family(by now, Tina was with dear Tom, a large hunk of man, with a generous heart to match)was headed to Florida....
I recall one afternoon, just days before Christmas, when she was 14--I turned her loose at Humpus Bumpus Books and said "Pick out whatver you want--just keep picking out books until you think you have enough."
It was exciting to see her run directly for Shakespeare's "Romeo & Juliet", then a full collection of Shakespeare, then on to books of poetry, a nonfiction book on being a teenager, a dark mystery, and finally--she raced to the back of the store, somewhat breathless."Where are you going?" I asked, curious as to why a bona-fide teenager would allow herself to be caught in the kiddie-section.
"I have to find Curious George," she said with a smile.
I understood then,what being a teenager is--one hand is in the Romeo-and-Juliet section, the other hand cuddles Curious George.
If you see this, BREAZ, HAPPY 19th BIRTHDAY! It's a good year, but it will only get better, kid.
Aunt Lisa promises.