Little girl taking me by the hand, sleepy eyes, whispering, "It's time for me to go to bed."
A little girl who loves olives more than any other food.
Little girl creeping in, along with her sister, to the family room, where D and I are sleeping on the pull-out sofa. "Are they awake?"
"I think they're awake."
"Mommy said we're not supposed to wake them."
I lie there, trying not to laugh, getting ready to "wake-up" suddenly and throw them into fits of giggles.
Middle school girl getting ready to move from everything she's ever known in Massachusetts to completely unknown Tennessee for her 8th grade year. It's going to be tough. I know this, as an 8th grade teacher. We discuss social strategies.
Dinner in New York, just moved there with her boyfriend. They're breaking into theater, he's doing tech, she's stage managing. She looks great - sparkling eyes and the same dimpled smile the sleepy girl had.
Last Saturday, a young woman dances, gazing dreamily into the eyes of that same boyfriend, now husband. She is heartbreakingly beautiful, her red hair caught up into a twist with "diamonds", her dress a clinging drape of lace and pearls.
She's currently in San Francisco, enjoying her first week of married life with her longtime love.
And yet, my lovely niece, whom I've seen all too rarely since we both moved from Massachusetts, was not the big surprise this past weekend.
Families are complicated. We all know that. We all know the phrase "You can choose your friends, but..."
Sometimes our own family is challenging, sometimes our significant other has the challenging group, and sometimes you may love both, but there are those particular personalities who just throw you, no matter how hard you try to suck it up and breathe tolerance.
For a variety of reasons, I hadn't seen many of these family members of D's for a long, long time. There wasn't any estrangement, it was more a matter of circumstances - moves, blizzards, illness, elderly parent needs, lack of communication.
Seeing them all again, I was struck how my earlier interpretations of behavior and personality were radically wrong. As I've aged, I see people who are far less powerful, less secure, than I once thought. People I saw as kinder are maybe less so, and those I used to fear a bit, seem more desperate than arrogant.
A wonderful experience was meeting and re-meeting some of my delightful sister-in-law's family members - I enjoyed each and every one of them, and I understand even more why I like her so much.
It was definitely a weekend of new-found knowledge.
What about you? What family (or other) relationships have you managed to see in a new light? Do you see your close relationships as everlasting or everchanging?