Summertime and Nieces

July 25, 2010

My nieces, Cindy (age 11) and Eliza (age 7), drop into my life once or twice a year.  It’s a treat for them to board at their grandparents’—a five-hour car ride from home.  This summer they arrived with their agenda all planned out:  “We’re going to the Children’s Museum, we’re riding boats on the canal, we’re going on the pedal-cars and taking a carriage ride.”

I made as many guest appearances as I could handle through the week.  My abundant deficiencies, overlooked in the polite adult world, are far from taboo for pre-teen curiosity.  I don’t know if it is in spite of or because of these deficiencies that my nieces like me—unfathomable as that may be.

“Uncle Craig, you have a smiley face on the back of your head!”

My balding pattern is taking a bizarre route on its way to full bloom.  I currently have quasi-Gorbachev splotches grimacing at people who walk behind me.  The former General Secretary’s birthmarks were considerably more dignified.

The girls did everything on their list for the week, sans the carriage ride—nixed  by grandpa as a wintertime-only treat. Added to the docket was our church festival.  Elephant ears, face painting, snow cones and silly prizes.

“Uncle Craig, you look a lot like my dad, but he doesn’t laugh anything like you.”

No one I know may believe me, but I make an effort to keep my laughter under wraps.  Unchecked, it is akin to a zoo full of animals—seagulls, hyenas, donkeys, elephants.  Eliza demanded on several occasions: “Laugh!”   Luckily, her demand struck me as funny.

Less hectic days at home meant rollerblading, reading, board games and singing.  Cindy and Eliza ran, yelled and swung at a neighborhood playground.  (I found out I can no longer properly execute an underdog push on a swing-set.)

“Uncle Craig, What’s that in your neck?”

My Adam’s apple is admittedly at the high end of the bell curve for size.  One of Michelle’s pictures rather makes it resemble an Easter Island moai.  I reveled in swallowing when the nieces were staring.  “Eeewwww!

They went putt-putting and got a hole-in-one.  They went for a hike at Eagle Creek park and saw a deer.  They visited a water park and Eliza quickly got over her fear of the water slide.  They served play Egyptian food to their grandparents at the Children’s Museum.  They ate real food at a rooftop restaurant looking at the Indianapolis skyline.  (Spoiled by the grandparents, you think?)

“When was the last time you talked to our dad, Uncle Craig?”

“I dunno, Christmas?”

“But he’s your brother! That’s sad!  You should call him.”

Cindy made a sleuth-like accusation, “Maybe they don’t like each other.”  A smirking silence gave way to bursts of giggles.

I don’t dislike my brother.  We’ve never had enough of a relationship to sense that one had gone missing.  (I’ve accidentally identified myself as an only child before.)

Later on their father called to talk to his girls.  The phone was shoved to my ear  amid gleeful shouts:  “Talk to your brother!”

I said, “Hi,” and handed the phone back.  That was quite enough conversation for both of us.  (We couldn’t have heard each other over the kids anyway.)

My nieces are not a matched set.  They have vastly different personalities and talents.  But their relationship enchanted me during the week.  Eliza wanted to do anything Cindy was doing.  Cindy was generous and encouraging with her little sister.  They could irritate each other, certainly, but they just might get through childhood as friends, rather than the strangers that their father and I were.

The word “family” is warm-hearted to me because of my parents, aunts, uncles and cousins—because of sepia-toned memories of elephant ears and hyena laughs, singing, swinging and inside jokes.  It’s wondrous—and somehow mysterious—to see my nieces building those kinds of memories with each other.



  1. Well, now, isn’t that sweet!? The part about your nieces being friends and building great memories, that is. Not the part about you sometimes forgetting that you have a brother. ;O)

  2. Ha ha ha ha ha
    I’m imaging your laughter and your juggling Adam’s apple right now.

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