My niece joined the family on July 12th, 2010. This special young lady's mother is my younger sister, which in classic Chinese culture makes me her Jiu Jiu (舅舅) -- thus the title of this blog. Here I intend to semi-regularly post reflections, thoughts, stories, and assorted whathaveyous pertaining to our trip to China, adoption in general, and (mostly) watching my niece grow up. Since the web is a very public place, I will attempt to maintain my family's privacy while telling the story... but I invite you to follow the blog and come along for the adventure!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Uncle Duty / Reminder of Days gone By

This was another one of those weekends that's crazy busy.. happily, most of it good.

Saturday was a multi-party day for the Pipsqueak. Early in the day, she and AJ attended the bat mitzvah of the daughter of one of AJ's older friends. She and her mommy had a good time, leaving the post-service reception quite a bit later than originally planned. This particular event was one of those situations that makes one sit back and go, "hmmm...." More particularly, it made my sister sit back and go "hmmm..." because it was AJ's first face-to-face meeting with some of her former junior high school crowd in several decades, and one of the first times in her life she has met people from that long-ago part of her life as a mother. The other thought-inducing factor was that she and the bat mitzvah girl's mother first met and became friends around the same age as the girl being honored that day. (This also had significance for me, since I remember picking the two of them up from school in the family station wagon on rainy days with my still-new driver's license Somehow the idea that one of those young girls was now the mother of a teen.. well, there's a lot of CPU cycles being used in my subconscious...)

AJ didn't have much time to think things over, because she had to zoom home with the Pipsqueak, get changed, and zoom back out (with yours truly now riding shotgun) to the 3rd birthday partyof the China-born son of some good friends of ours. By this point, the Pipsqueak was showing the signs of combined lack of nap time and extra stimulation -- but just as we thought we were en route to a meltdown, the presence of birthday cake and ice cream saved the day and Miri was soon playing dress-up, running around making loud happy noises, and generally proving to the adults that their energy levels were indeed could not compare. Later on she pretty much blew her uncle's mind by including heeled mules (several pairs, in fact) as part of her dress-up play... and having less trouble walking, running, and stair-climbing in heels than her mommy.  (Dude, she's a girlie girl: she's into pink, frou-frou, frills, dresses... and now heels! Get used to it!)

That night, I got together with some old friends; AJ begged off in favor of getting some badly-needed rest. I still had my camera with me, and when asked about the Pipsqueak started showing enough photos for one of my friends (ironically, some of whom I had known since we were all around the age of the morning's bat mitzvah girl) to smilingly comment, "You sound like a proud uncle!" I took the hint and stopped kvelling over my niece for a while. There was one "whoa, hang on a sec!" moment when one of the group asked if there were plans for the Pipsqueak to have a sister, but (perhaps fortunately?) the discussion moved on to other subjects before that one could be explored.

Saturday was long, and Sunday started early because AJ has weekend manager duty and our folks had a prior appointment they couldn't break, so I had several hours of "uncle duty" to keep an eye on the Pipsqueak. I'm proud to say I got to AJ's on time -- bleary-eyed and seriously sleep-deprived, but on time! -- and the Pipsqueak and her uncle had a pretty darn good time. We "watched princesses" on my 'puter (the Disney site, her current online obsession), read some books, watched some Mickey, and had a bunch of other fun. I'm also going to boast a little: despite my niece being an ultra-picky eater, she left only one or two bites of the grilled cheese sandwich I made for her. Later on we headed to her grandparents' to meet up with Miri's favorite Cousin E. The Pipsqueak snuck in a 15-20 minute nap on the way over so there was a bit of a rough patch when I woke her to take her out of the car (and she spent the next 20+ minutes seriously wanting Mommy) but it quickly turned into an enjoyable evening for all.

The only dark cloud was one of AJ's cats. The poor little puddy tat had been showing signs of being sick, and AJ had asked me to check in on her during the day. The last couple of times I did so left me thinking the family was on the verge of losing another four-footed member; although she looked better later in the evening, it was decided a visit to the local emergency veterinary clinic was in order. Cousin E graciously agreed to stay with the Pipsqueak while AJ & I took the frighteningly listless kitty to the clinic. Once there, after a relatively short (but tense) wait, we got some good news about the kitty -- and a bit of a surprise.

As relief led to conversation with the emergency vet, we discovered that she knew a great deal about China adoptions: her original LID was just a few days after AJ's! The difference was that she had made the difficult decision to not push through as the wait extended year after year; several years after filing, she withdrew from the adoption process. The vet added that the strain contributed to a divorce, and we exchanged stories of the people we knew who had dropped out (and of marriages strained to breaking by the wait). The story has a happy ending; she's now a happy mommy herself. (I apologize for the lack of specifics, but the story is hers and not mine to tell, and I don't want to violate her privacy.)

By the time I was finally headed home from AJ's, I was convinced I would be going straight into bed and passing out within minutes. Instead, I found myself sitting and thinking back on how it felt to be waiting for the little girl I spent most of the weekend playing with, reading to, and generally just enjoying. I remember the quiet, almost bald pre-toddler I helped shepherd through several international airports (and who so thoroughly peed on me in China); I remember the period where I swore she was going through life headfirst followed by the occasional loud "THUNK"; and I am happy sharing conversation with the bright, inquisitive little girl Miri has become (and whose sense of balance & physical coordination far outstrip her uncle's).

But somehow, even though I'm not actually Miri's parent, those memories (faded as they may be) simply refuse to go away. If I was a little less sleep-deprived, I'd close out this post with a pithy, erudite comment about how the adoption process leaves its mark on an entire family and not just the parent(s), indelibly changing not just how they live afterwards but also how they think and how they perceive the passage of time...

...but I'm really tired so that statement will have to do for now. :-)

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