Thursday, August 23, 2007

My Niece Drew: Girl, you’ll be a woman soon…



This is Drew, today.   My question is:  when did she become so...hip?

I'll never forget the night before she was born.  It was "Thanksgiving Eve", 19**.  I went home early for the holidays, and was surprised to find no food cooking.  "Your crazy sister is planning to cook the whole thing" Mom said.  "But Mom--isn't Donda like 3 months overdue with that baby?"

"I told you she was crazy!"

In comes Donda, falling over her belly and carrying an assortment of food, pots and pans.   Mom said "That girl is ready to lose it, you'd better stay outta her way."   And from there, the evening became something of a sitcom.  Donda  is laughing at everything I say, and then complaining I'm giving her a bellyache.  Mom's eyes bulged.  "Omigod he isn't that funny, you're having contractions--Shawn, get her in the car!”  Donda’s water had broke. 

So Mom, Donda & Shawn take off for the hospital--and there's Dad & me,  standing there looking at each other.  I said "What do we do now?"  He said "Well, one of us had better get some sleep so go to bed, I'll stay up & wait for the call.  Probably a false alarm."  I go to the bathroom, think of something, come back into the livingroom.  "Hey Dad—"  He's snoring soundly on the couch.

And early Thanksgiving morning, Drew was born.


Donda holding newborn Drew 

It was actually something of a comedy before Drew was born.  Donda & Bobby were married in 1986--REALLY young, as Donda was only 17.  But Bob had a well-paying career working on river barges (he's now a captain).  And (much to Mom's relief) Donda had no plans on having a baby anytime soon. 




My favorite picture of Drew as a baby...look at that smile!


In fact, for years it became a "Holiday Tradition", where Mom would ask Bobby if he got what he wanted for Christmas--he'd reply "Well..." Donda would roll her eyes.  "He wants a baby!"  So when she finally consented, he was thrilled.  And when we found out Donda was having a girl, we all did a double-take.   (Donda was not your typical girl, growing up.  She never played with dolls, or other traditional girl toys.  Mom, who loved that stuff, would heap toy dishes and such on her--all in vain.  And with Bobby being as male as a male can get--hunting, cars, sports--did I say hunting?  We didn't envision their future daughter in frilly dresses, exactly.)

We'd all be proven wrong--what Mom called "one of God's ironies".

You couldn't have asked for a kid to be more of a girl than Drew was.  She loved the whole traditional setup (dolls, dresses, dishes) right from the start.  And Donda (to her credit) never had a problem with it, and turned out to be a great mom in the process.


Donda & Drew at Nana & Paps  

I remember only one time where I heard Donda speak up about it.  In the summer of 1997, they were living in South Carolina & Shawn and I went to stay with them for a week.  I got the honor of sleeping in Drew's "princess bed" (while Drew slept with her mom). 

On the first morning there, I woke up to the sound of clatter.  I rolled over & Drew was standing at her play-kitchen sink.  "I'm sorry Uncle Doug, but I gotta get these dishes washed."  

Later that morning downstairs, as I told Shawn & Donda about it, Donda said "Drew, tell Uncle Doug what you want to be when you grow up."  Drew said "a mama".  Donda said "Honey you can be ANYTHING you want--a teacher, or even a rock star!"  Drew said "I want to be a mama."   Donda looked at us & just shook her head.


Me and Drew, on her birthday

From the start, Drew was always the dictionary definition of "a good girl".  Our parents (before they both passed away) loved her dearly, and Mom insisted that she could've "pooped her out" herself, she felt they were that alike.   And as Drew got older, her interests expanded in a variety of fun directions--she loved books, biology, and science; I remember when she excitedly got her own 'spy kit', complete with magnifying glass.  And she's always done excellently in school, a friend to everyone, and loved by all her teachers.   (I wish I had my act that together at her age!)

While I wish she didn't have to grow up quite so fast, it's so nice to see what a fine young woman she's turning out to be.  Recently a younger friend of mine saw her picture & expressed interest in dating her--until I told him she was only 13! 

Here’s a video I made showing what I’ve seen so far; I’m sure the best is yet to come.  Smile  

Sunday, August 19, 2007

My Niece Sophia: Two Years Old & Growing Up Fast



Today my sister Shawn sent me some recent pictures of her daughter Sophie, and here she is, roughly 2 months shy of her third birthday.

Needless to say, I think this kid is nothing short of gorgeous; and needless to say, I love her like no other.

Frankly, her very existence amazes me. My sister Shawn & her husband Jim were married in the spring of 2000; his second marriage, her first. I know Shawn wanted a baby of her own, but I don't think she had a lot of faith it would happen 'this late in the game'.

Jim had 2 grown children from a previous marriage, and so my sister set out making that her family.


Jim, my sister Shawn & my beautiful niece Sophia

Without going into a lot of details about Shawn's married life, I'll never forget the night she called me to tell me she was near the end of her first trimester (of pregnancy). She had sworn Mom to secrecy, and God bless Mom, she never gave me a clue.

(I really was shocked; just a few months earlier, Shawn had asked me to help her look into international adoptions.)

But what should've been a joyous time for Shawn was instead a stressful one. As her pregnancy continued, Mom's cancer advanced. Mom told me more than once "I pray I'm here long enough to see Shawn's baby." And on October 12, 2004--as Shawn was literally making arrangements from her hospital bed to have Mom moved into her & Jim's home, Sophia was born.

Mom was able to spend about 2 months knowing Sophia before she passed away. And for this small window of time, while so unfair to everyone involved, I'm grateful that Shawn (and Mom) had that, at least.

From as early as I can remember, Sophie has been a bubbly, sing-song chatterbox, anxious to crawl & even more so to run--she was so anxious to be on her feet, I think she would've skipped the walking part if she had a choice.


This monkey was so anxious to climb those stairs on her own

She's always been fiercely independent too--if you help her do something, she would say "NO I DO IT" and climb back down & struggle to do it on her own.  (While singing a song she made up--"You can do it, you can do it--all by yourself!")



December 2006 & growing up fast

The kid has been incredibly funny for as long as I've known her--when she barely knew 20 words, if you said "Oh Sophie, you're so pretty today..." she'd reply "NO--he's the sweetheart (pointing to her dad) and that's the mommy (pointing to Shawn) and I'M GORGEOUS!"  while she looked at me seriously.

Don't fool with this girl, she'll call you out on it!

I've always felt a special kinship with her; well, besides being her uncle I've always been close to Shawn (and knew how much she wanted a baby of her own, and I wanted it just as much for her). And when Sophie was born, from a certain angle mind you, I was told she resembled me a little! Of course, it goes further than that. I think she senses it too, we've never had any problem being close. She teases me even more than I do her--once I called her a hambone, and she accepted it gracefully. (But now she likes to remind me that while she may be a hambone, I'm a meatball.)


Springtime 2007:  look at those eyes!

It's impossible to list everything I've seen for myself, let alone the countless stories Shawn relates to me of Sophia's adventures. This baby loves her family fiercely and is always anxious to "lend a hand". She sings loud and plays hard and owns a small library. She loves books and dolls and especially just being with other kids. I don't think there's much this kid is afraid of. 


Here’s a video I’ve made called “My Niece Sophia (so far)” because I’m sure there’s bound to be more coming.