Tuesday, September 2, 2014

I'm with you...

I’ve been missing my nieces lately.  They live 2000 miles away and we haven’t seen them in three years.  And despite the modern age of technology that includes cell phones, texting, Facebook and Skype, I haven’t talked to them in about two years.

The sad part is that I’m really not sure why.  

I dreamed of the day that the girls would be teenagers, and I could be the confidante aunt that listened when you had problems with friends or school, and didn’t judge you.  The aunt that sent you little gifts just because, that came at precisely the right moment that you needed to feel loved and cherished.  That we would share secrets and they might call me in the middle of the day just because. 

When CJ was small, she knew exactly what our relationship was to be.  She was helping me put on my makeup, running the brush across her face and saying, “CJ will do it!”  

When I shared this with her dad, he corrected me.  “No, she says it, ‘CJ WILL do it’.”  

“Not with me,” I giggled.  “She doesn’t have to convince me…she knows that I will let her.”

Every time we got the chance to visit them (which was not nearly enough with my brother in the military), I would take lots of pictures and then create a themed scrapbook with the pictures.  One year, I made a book in which each page began with “At Aunt Jaycie’s house…”  Another year, I recorded a piece of advice for each picture.  

The next time that we got together, they would quote the books.  I went to visit them one year, and Allie apologized when I saw the tattered book from their last visit.  

“I’m sorry, Aunt Jaycie,” she said soberly.  “It’s getting ruined!”

I couldn’t have been more excited.  They were reading them.  They were memorizing them.  They were LOVING them.

It was those shared memories that kept us close.  We could laugh together about how their grandmother, my sweet mother…is the worst poor sport in the world.  You have to keep an eye on her, one would say, and then in unison, “Because SHE CHEATS!”

We would talk about how their dad flipped out when his he couldn’t get the film out to develop photos from when he proposed to their mother.  He ended up smashing the camera and the film on the back patio in frustration.

They loved to hear about how they used to tease Uncle Chops that they were “stinkin’ up his spot.”  That once, he took away Allie’s “buh uh gum” because she wouldn’t keep it in her mouth.  He held her over the garbage can until she spit it out, and she cried for an hour.  They promised to never be teenagers and ignore their adoring young cousins, like Tux did when he turned 13 and was too cool to be seen with them.  

We remembered making Fourth of July shirts together, Tie dyeing, and working on the roof of my parents house together.  Eating crab around the island in the kitchen, and the many nights watching Pokemon when Todd and I spent a week with them when their parents were out of town.  How the storm nearly drowned us at the park before we could get back to the van.  Eating Taco Bell and watching CJ cry when her cheese got spilled.  About how JJ kept telling me that I was mean.

The cool aunt train appeared to be going the right direction.

But then the phone calls got fewer and farther between.  They were more hurried.  And soon, calls were not answered.  No return call.  

CJ was nearing those teenage years, and I had hopes that even if her parents were too busy to keep in touch with us, that she and I could keep in touch via social media or her new cell phone.  I texted her one day, sitting in Taco Bell, and reminded her about the spilled cheese.  I told her how much I missed her, how much I loved her, and how I wished that she were at Taco Bell with me.  

I never heard from her.

Bro told me later that she had mentioned that I texted her.  But she didn’t text back.

I posted on her Facebook wall.  

She never replied.

Bro says that she isn’t your average teenager, and she isn’t into texting.  

I happened to catch Bro one day, and we had just a moment to talk. JJ was there, and Bro asked him if he wanted to talk to me.  He said "No, thank you."

I finally quit trying to contact them, because it broke my heart to be ignored.  

No one noticed.

I heard Avril Lavigne’s “I’m with You” on the radio today.  CJ loved that song when she was little, and we found it refreshing that she heard “DAMP cold night”, instead of the lyrics “damn cold night”.  

I thought that you'd be here by now
There's nothing but the rain
No footsteps on the ground
I'm listening but there's no sound

We’re also coming up on the Fourth of July holiday – a family favorite.  It reminded me of the time that we were coming home from the beach and a tiny CJ said from the back seat, “You love us, Aunt Jaycie, and when we’re not here, you miss us!”

I smiled at her and at Allie, whose big eyes were looking at me in the rearview mirror.  

“When you’re not here, I miss you all of the time.”

Just so you know…I still do.