Sunday, February 26, 2012

Three Nieces and a Birthday Party

As we pulled up to the old brick Colonial, I could see my niece seemingly floating in the air, pressing her face against the glass of the front door.  My brother-in-law, my husband's-sister's-husband, was holding her.  She was wearing a midnight blue baby-ballgown with buttons down her back, a bow around her waist, and tiny rainbow rhinestones covering the satin fabric like stars blanketing the night sky.  Her blue eyes shone from beneath her curls.  I walked passed the planters and jars containing chunky lit candles tied with pink ribbons and into the entry-way which was speckled with red and pink rose petals.  I leaned over and kissed *Button on her cheek.  "Happy Birthday, Button," I said.  She wiggled her little nose at me and squealed.  Large pink and purple handmade tissue paper poufs hung from the chandeliers in two rooms, connected by homemade garland of butterflies, made of cut up magazine paper, connected with string.  I passed by more over-sized jars with chunky candles and ribbon.

Food was everywhere.  My sister-in-laws in-laws are a large, Italian family.  They get to see Button more than I do.  Sometimes I catch myself feeling jealous that they get to be closer to her than I do--if only by proximity.  I learned growing up with the closest adoptive relative living over three hours away, that the cousins who live closer to the grandparents, aunts and uncles, are the cousins that get to be closer to the grandparents, aunts and uncles.  I always feel better ten minutes into a gathering because her in-laws, and all of their many brothers, sisters, wives, and kids, are really nice and welcoming.  They don't make you feel excluded.

I caught myself today, as I wielded my camera capturing every single moment of Button's birthday party that I could, defending my obnoxious picture taking by cheerfully grumbling "well, she's my only niece!"  And then I felt badly.  She isn't my one and only niece.  I have two others whom I have never met who probably do not want to meet me.  It would really hurt me should my original family forget to count me as one of their own though.  Or if my adoptive family excluded me because I'm not biologically related or didn't consider me to be "real."

The truth is, it is sad to have nieces you  might never know.  And even sadder that because of it, you forget to count them as a part of your family when you know you hate not being counted yourself.

I chuckled to myself today when I thought of how much I love being a part of this niece's life and she's not even biologically-related to me.  "I'm never the biologically-related one, wherever I go!"  I laughed to myself, as she wrapped her tiny hand around mine to steady herself as she lead me around the house, showing me her new-found walking skills.  It is funny the things family gatherings make you think of and know how much you've grown when the same old issues of adoption and belonging start bothering you less and less.

Today, I remembered to treat my family how I want to be treated; I have three nieces, not just one.

*Not her real name.