Today is my favorite nephew’s birthday.
Now before anybody starts thinking I’m an awful aunt for saying that, let me clear the air by admitting that Matt is my only nephew. I also have two nieces, but we’re talking nephews today.
Matt’s 20 today, which means that he has officially left behind the life of a teenager. It’s also just six months until my youngest daughter, Vanessa, turns 20. Like a million other moms and aunts, I sometimes have trouble keeping up with the fact that the kids are getting this old. I used to think the older generations were crazy for saying that something seemed like it happened just yesterday, especially when whatever it was had happened a good 30 or 40 years earlier. Unfortunately, I’m discovering that while it doesn’t exactly feel like yesterday, there are far too many things that feel as if they happened just a year or two ago that . . . well, didn’t.
When Matt and Vanessa were little, Matt was sometimes a little too enthusiastic about giving her hugs. His efforts to show Vanessa how much he liked her were usually met with disaster, such as two kids and a walker tumbling down the stairs or crashing over in the living room. In that way he hasn’t changed much in the past 20 years. He doesn’t hug Vanessa often, but when he does, I always hold my breath, expecting the two of them to tumble over on the spot.
He told me once that I had the second best hair in the world. That might not sound like much, but one of Matt’s comfort things when he was little was sitting on his mom’s lap, playing with her hair. He could sit there for the longest time, recovering from some injury, falling asleep, watching TV, listening to a story, just mindlessly running his fingers through my sister’s hair. So when he had to climb onto my lap once in a time of need, I experienced a moment of panic, wondering if I could possibly give this boy what he needed in terms of hair comfort. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to find out my hair was right up there near the top of the list!
Like my uncle Ralph was for the cousins in my generation, Matt is just the right age to be considered the coolest guy on earth by his niece and nephew. Since he was about 15, Matt has willingly — even eagerly — been known as “Uncle Pooh.” I think it’s “Pooh” anyway. Maybe it’s “Uncle Poo.” Either way, a lot of 15-year-old guys might not get excited about being known as Pooh, but from the minute David was old enough to say it, Matt has thrived on it.
Matt’s been away at school for more than a year, studying to become a commercial pilot. His dad is also a commercial pilot, a captain with Delta Airlines. He’s also an avid sailor, a skiier, and tennis player, not to mention a gifted musician.
Best of all, he’s a good kid. A really great kid, actually. I’m lucky enough to be his aunt in this life, but I hope he knows that I’d like him even if I weren’t related to him.