All statements began with "Aunt Stephanie" and ended in a question mark. "Aunt Stephanie," my niece Mikayla asked while watching me pump, "why are you doing that?" While breastfeeding, "Why don’t you feed the baby on the other chest?" and "Why aren’t you using a bottle?" "Aunt Stephanie? Why is your chest so big?" She’s four and three quarters and come September she’ll be going to kindergarten. Her mother, Phil’s sister, is beyond terrified. All the big firsts scare her. "You’ll see," she said to me, "you’ll cry too." And I imagine that’s true. It’s bittersweet realizing your baby, who will always be your baby, isn’t a baby anymore.
"Oh, Aunt Stephanie?"
"Do you know when Uncle Phil and Mommy are coming back?"
"What time did they tell you?"
"They, um. Well, they said they’d be back before I know it, but when is that?" Four is fun.
They’re gone now, all the inlaws, and Phil and I are here, for the first time in a while, without visitors. It’s a big exhale, being alone again. Just our family. As helpful as everyone has been, it’s also nice being able to walk around naked again. My father and Carol should have been here, but their JetBlue flight was canceled. So we’ll be expecting my sister and mother in another week, then my father and Carol. None of my family has met their new family yet. They don’t know the way Lucas grunts and tries to talk while he’s eating, or the way Abigail will wail continuously and suck it all back as soon as you swoop her up. You can’t spoil babies this age, they say. It’s true. Really. But it doesn’t feel true. The saddest part for me is realizing I want their family close. I want them to know their grandmother’s voice and the way their Aunt laughs. I want them to know my parents, the way I knew my grandparents, on Sundays, when my grandfather carried me around the house, stopping at each framed piece of art, letting me touch it, telling me the stories behind them. I want them to know their histories, not in words and points at photos of relatives, but actively in their arms and between breaths. I hope our family visits a lot. I think I’ll know what "a lot" is once the kids KNOW who all their family members are without the use of photos. By the time they’re four? Good question.