It’s late but I can hear her singing in her room: One, two, three, four, five…six, seven, eight, nine, 10…11, 12! It’s an old Sesame Street song and she knows it because I sing it to her.
Except, when she gets to four, she adds: “I am four” and then continues on singing.
One, two, three, four – I am four – five…six, seven, eight, nine, 10…11, 12!
And so she is. Four today and what a day it’s been with cake and presents and singing and smiling.
In early 2010 I was in Canada with a decision to make. On paper it didn’t seem like much of a decision at all. Although I had one more year on my Canadian working visa, there was nothing else keeping me in the country. Jared Padalecki and I hadn’t fallen in love. I hadn’t managed to find a good job and working for $8.50 an hour was wearing very thin. I’d made some good friends, some I still keep in touch with today, but my best friends were at home. It felt like everything was at home. My job that paid actual money, my family, friends, dogs, sunshine, not having to wear rain boots six months of the year.
On paper it didn’t seem like much of decision at all. I should go home.
And yet. I was undecided. I hadn’t made the best of things in Canada but I still had a year on my visa left. I could leave Vancouver, try Toronto or Nova Scotia or the Yukon. I could try and build somewhere else what I hadn’t been able to find in Vancouver. I felt stifled by the idea of going home, like going home meant it was time to grow up and buy a house and settle down and talk about negative gearing at parties. When I thought about doing that it felt like I was trying to breathe inside a plastic bag.
And then my brother and sister-in-law Skyped me and the minute I saw their faces, before they even told me, I knew I would be going home because I wasn’t going to miss out on being there when my favourite people in the world had their baby.
I’ve never been the kind of girl who wanted a baby. I’m still not that girl. I don’t have kids and I don’t know if I will ever. I’m not going to say that when my first niece was born four years ago all of a sudden my perspective changed and I was in love with the idea of having children, because it didn’t. The only thing I fell in love with was Mia.
As an Aunty I was a bit shocked by how I loved her immediately, immensely. I could see myself in her – my lips, my chin. That was weird. When she was a baby I would just stare at her face. Wonder when she was going to grow hair. What her first words would be. What her voice would sound like.
Seeing my little brother and my sister-in-law just simply ease into being parents was weird too. One day they were kids, the next day they were parents, like they’d been parents all this time.
As Mia grew it became clear that this love I had was mutual. When she was just a baby she used to snuggle into me, really squeeze me with those tiny fingers. When she could walk she’d toddle towards me as fast as those little legs could take her, arms outstretched. When she finally got the knack of running she’d greet me at full pelt, yelling my name. She still does this. I hope it never stops.
All of a sudden the things I did and said took on enormous importance. I remember casually trying to teach her how to count to five once, when she’d started to talk. I thought she was too little to really take in what I was saying. My brother told me the next day he took her for a walk in the pram. From under the hood he saw a little hand reach out and rest on the bar in front of her, and she counted out loud, tapping out the numbers on her fingers: one, two, three, four, five.
She remembers everything. It’s one of my favourite things about her.
She’s considerate. She takes extra teddy bears to teddy bear picnics in case other kids forgot theirs.
She has the kindest heart. I can’t read her Humpty Dumpty anymore because she was upset that he fell off the wall and hurt himself.
She likes it when I sing Lucy in the sky with diamonds and when she has a bath she likes me to play that 50s song Splish, Splash.
She likes routine. Three books a night and then mummy snuggles with her.
I introduced her to the Toy Story movies. She loves them, especially the second one.
She likes tomato and cucumber but she’s a bit off eggs right now.
Sometimes we like to lay on our backs on the trampoline and look at the stars.
She was born to dance. We watched So You Think You Can Dance last week and now she’s added a whole new range of entertaining dance moves to her repertoire.
She’s against pants at the moment. Strictly a dress and skirt kinda girl.
Orange used to be her favourite colour but it changes every day now. Today it was blue, like mine and her dad’s.
Today, for her birthday she had a blue cupcake. I gave her Jessie and Bullseye dolls and a sparkly blue dress (lots of glitter). She said thank you without being prompted.
In 2010 I had a decision to make. In the end it was no decision at all. I’ve never regretted coming home and leaving Canada and whatever it might have had for me. At home I found being an Aunty to be the kind of adventure that rivals anything the mountains and cities and lakes could provide. And when my partner in crime’s favourite activities are drawing, watching Toy Story and playing dress ups it turns out I didn’t need to be so scared of growing up. We have no time for growing up; we’re having too much fun.
Today she blew out four candles. In that four years I’ve learned more about love and adventure and how to make an orange play-dough cat than I ever thought possible. I’ve been privileged to be such a huge part of her life. I hope that as the years go on, whenever she needs someone she knows she can still run to me, arms outstretched, because I’ll catch her always. Happy birthday, Mia.