It turns out she made her entrance into the world a little early, June 26th to be exact, and she was beautiful. The whole family rushed to Illinois to see her. I've been told that my parents raced out of the car like fools to be the first in the house to hold the new baby girl. I'm fairly certain they didn't even notice my brother or sister-in-law because this was the first grandchild in the family.
I resisted the urge to visit right away so that I could let the crowd die down. She was 2 weeks old the first time I laid eyes on her and I was in love. She had thick black hair and beautiful rosey cheeks. I loved holding her, talking to her, getting up early with her--which was totally out of character for my 19 year old self. She was perfect and we all knew it. All we did was stare at her. I couldn't believe that I would have to return to Texas after only a week. I didn't know how I would be able to stay away. I remember being teary eyed for the first hour of the drive back to Texas.
Six months after she was born we met up for Christmas in South Carolina. Tina, my sister-in-law, had such cute outfits picked out for baby's first Christmas but it was 90 degrees outside and she ended up wearing only a diaper most of the time. Once again we all fought over holding her and cooing at our smiley piece of heaven. She had not even rolled over yet because she spent most of her life 4 feet off the ground in someone's arms. We had to make an effort to let her lay on the floor long enough to get the desire to roll over. And when she finally did, we all thought she was brilliant!
That Christmas I started a tradition that would spread to all the girls in my family. I gave her a charm from James Avery. She would get one every year on her birthday and Christmas and they would represent something significant that had happened to her: a baptism shell, a Big Sister charm, a tooth fairy, a flower girl. Then it was on to ballet shoes, volleyballs, an iPod.
But each year it was only a charm, not the bracelet. That would have to wait until she was 13. When she became a teenager I would ask her to send back all the charms that she had collected and I would have them made into a charm bracelet that held all her milestones in one place.
It is hard to believe that today is that day.
A few weeks ago I received a package that held the charms that I had given her over the years. And today, on her 13th birthday, I have a bracelet to give her that is full of memories. I hope that she enjoys wearing the bracelet as much as I have enjoyed building it. I am so proud of my baby niece who is now growing into a young woman. She is a bright student, a promising athlete, a good friend and a great big sister (even if she does call Emma an a-hole). We really couldn't ask for anything more.
I feel so blessed to have her in my life and so lucky that we are able to see each other as often as we do given our distance. I have enjoyed watching her grow up and look forward to seeing what the teenage years have in store for her.
Happy 13th Birthday, Natalie. Your Aunt Amy loves you!