My life through their eyes

Editor’s note: This column was written many years ago when these young ladies were about eight, nine years old. Today, they are teenagers. The writer thought it would be fun to revisit a sweet Christmas morning conversation with her nieces – back when they were just little youngins’.

Ever wonder what other people perceive you to be or how they think your life is or has been?

I have never much thought about it – because I am who I am, my life was and is what it is.

Until this past weekend.

I was sitting across the table from three of my favorite people.

As they sat there in their Christmas pajamas eating fruit and cereal, with their hair all wild from sleeping, we chatted.

These young ladies are my Wilkinson nieces – Payton, Jordan and Cynley. They’ve been on the planet less than nine years – so they’ve missed a few things that have been going on in my life.

But don’t be fooled by their numeric maturity – they are intuitive, observant and extremely inquisitive.

Somewhere between statements about liking strawberries and needing more milk on their Honeycomb concoctions, their interview with me began.

Suddenly, I was asked, “You never had a baby, did you?”

Taken aback, I looked at a very serious Payton as she stuck a spoon in her mouth.

The other two stared at me, wanting to know the answer.

“No, I’ve never had a baby,” I responded.

“Why not?” Cynley asked.

“Yeah, because if you would have three babies, that would mean there would be 10 of us nieces and nephews,” Jordan offered.

“Yes, that’s true,” I said. “There would be 10 of you.”

Then came a flurry of questions I never saw coming.

“Who are your parents?”

“Where are your parents?”

“How come you never talk about your parents?”

“Are you going to have Christmas with them?”

“How come we’ve never met your parents?”

“Why didn’t you ever have a baby? I wish you would have, because they’d be fun to play with.”

“You don’t have a job do you? Are you one of those ladies who stays home to fold the laundry?”

“I don’t like folding laundry, do you?”

These three powerhouses hit me like Oprah on crack. Not only did they wonder things about me, they expected answers.

I shouldn’t have been surprised because I’ve had these types of moments with the other kids as they reached the age of wondering. I suppose my life is a bit unorthodox, compared to what they are used to.

I knew it was time to be honest – but not so honest that it caused them any concern about what can happen in life.

I decided to start with the questions as they began and let this dialogue progress naturally.

“My parents’ names were Mel and Cheri,” I said.

“Just like Melanie and Jerry!” they exclaimed, loving that their names sounded like that of me and their uncle.

“I never realized it rhymed,” I said, laughing while my face grew hot with unexpected nervousness.

“Where do they live?”

“Well, my mom and dad are in heaven,” I gingerly said, while nonchalantly reaching for a grape so as to make this seem like a normal conversation.

“They are in heaven?” came a whispered response.

“Yes, they are in heaven,” I said. “That’s where they live and because I can’t get there right now, that’s why I don’t go to visit them and why you haven’t met them. We are here and they are there.”

“Do you think they watch you?”

“Sure, I do,” I said. “They probably ask God to let them check in now and again to see how I am.”

“Why are they in heaven? How did they get there?”

“My mom and dad died a long time ago,” I responded, noticing the cereal eating had stopped.

“Why did they die?”

“My mom was sick and my dad had an accident,” I explained.

“We have a friend who is sick and they say she’s going to die, too. Was your mom sick like she is? Did she have cancer?”

“No, my Mom didn’t have cancer, but she was sick a different way and her body couldn’t work anymore,” I said.

“Did your dad have a car accident? I know a guy who had a car accident.”

“No, my dad had a different kind of accident where he fell.”

For a second, there was silence. I decided this would be a good segue to the baby mystery.

“So after they went to heaven, Uncle Jerry and I had to raise my little sisters,” I said.

The cereal was turning soggy at this point and no one cared much about the cantaloupe.

“Because they needed a mom and a dad?”

“Yes, because they needed a mom and a dad. So I was like their mom and Uncle Jerry was like their dad.”

“Oh, I can see that! He would be good at being a dad.”

“He was,” I assured them as I nervously looked around the room for some adult assistance, but everyone was busy cleaning the living room and making breakfast for the older people. “He was a good dad to them.”

“So is that why you didn’t have any babies, because you were so busy with them?”

“Yes, I was so busy with my sisters that I forgot to have babies,” I responded. “And then later, when they all grew up and went to college, I was just too tired to think about having little tiny babies. So I waited for my sisters to grow up, get married and have babies – which they did – so I can enjoy playing with them.”

“Are you sad you can’t see your parents? Especially on Christmas?”

“Not anymore,” I said. “I know they are in heaven and they are really happy. So for them, it’s like every day is Christmas.”

“So if your sisters grew up and you don’t have to take care of them anymore, then why do you stay home and fold the laundry?”

I have no idea why they think I stay home and fold laundry all day. I had to laugh at this one, because finding time to fold the laundry at all is usually a challenge for me.

“She doesn’t stay home and fold laundry. She works for the newspaper.”

“She does not, she folds laundry!”

“No, she writes stories all day.”

“Stories about what?”

“Real life,” I responded.

“Can you make up characters and stuff?”

“No, these all have to be true stories about real people,” I said.

“That would be hard. I can’t think of anybody to write a story about. Don’t you have to be interesting or smart or funny or important to have somebody write a story about you for the newspaper?”

Yes, girls, you do. And yes, girls, you are.


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