At 20 years of age I became responsible for the lives of four children; my 7-month-old niece, my 3-year -old twin nieces and my 7-year-old nephew. It happened like this: I had just returned home from a semester abroad and a summer backpacking around Australia/New Zealand. I felt as light as a feather floating on the wind of freedom, wonder and possibility; weightless in my expanding knowledge of self and the world. I had also finally discovered my career path as a writer after working on two TV shows in Sydney. But before I could set up internships and begin my Hollywood conquest I received a phone call from my distraught older sister. My sister is the ultimate Goddess; strong, intelligent, beautiful and multi-talented. When her pillar of strength crumbles there is cause for concern. She told me, through a series of sobs that in her mailbox was a resignation note from her nanny. My sister was in medical school with four kids. A note like this was beyond devastating as she had no future childcare plan for the year. Luckily, I was home and in need of a job. In a moment I went from a feather blowing in the wind to a terrified quasi-mother worried about everything. The weight of responsibility hit me like a 300lb sack of potatoes as I realized I was accountable for the well being and character rendering of four children.
The first morning I was left alone with Samantha, my 7-month-old niece, I lay on the floor watching her suck a block for 10 minutes as I tried to wrap my mind around what was expected of me. And then later, I paced the house with her in my arms confused as to what to do when she continued to cry even though she was fed, her diaper was freshly cleaned and I exhausted all of my silly face clown tricks. I called my mother in panic wondering if something was wrong. My mom reassured me Samantha was a baby and sometimes babies talk via crying. I hung up the phone dissatisfied and strapped her in a stroller until she fell asleep only to realize I was going to be late picking up the other kids from school.
It took some time for me to work out the logistics and find a groove that worked for all of us. As I grew, they grew; and quickly I learned that I couldn’t enforce rules that I myself didn’t abide by. I started saying things like, “Why I oughtta…” in replace of “What the fuck!” Creative curses became my forte and every day was a grand adventure. We went on epic hikes in the Wissahickon, hosted our very own Saint Patrick’s Day Parade down Main Street, took tours of firehouses and went fountain swimming in Logan Square. When funds got low we got creative setting up a lucrative lemonade stand outside a train stop. Over the course of a year we became a unit; we blended together better than peanut butter and jelly. They taught me about what really matters in life; laughter, love, connection and grand adventures. One of the hardest things I ever decided to do was say goodbye and move west. My biggest fear was that after many moons had passed they would forget our days together and our bond would loosen like a badly tied shoelace. One of my biggest life blessings is that the exact opposite has happened. The picture featured above is them surprising me today at work with a picnic lunch. That is love.
A Warrior Princess