Eighteen years ago, my niece Samantha Kay was born.
I was twenty-six and I had probably spent less than a total of five hours around babies. I never baby-sat. I was always too busy playing sports.
And then on January 26, 1994, my life forever changed.
I was Sam’s first baby-sitter. Thanks to me, her mom and dad had their first night out after having a baby. They went to see Dumb and Dumber. You have to know my brother, but that is rather appropriate (no offense to my sister-in-law – but you married him).
At that stage in my life, I was a new lawyer, living and practicing in Philadelphia. I had made it straight through Princeton and law school, found a job right away and was on my way to becoming a Philadelphia lawyer. I had worked hard to get where I was in life and considered myself fairly tough and capable.
And then came Samantha. That first night with her was a little
terrifying challenging. Who knew that babies couldn’t hold their heads up on their own? And what was with this regurgitating ninety percent of what she ate? I really was concerned that her head was going to fall off or she was going to starve to death on my watch.
Nevertheless, we made it through the night and my brother and sister-in-law returned, none the wiser (perhaps in more ways than one) about the challenges of the evening.
Sammy Kay grew into a tow-headed toddler with big blue eyes. And since that first night together, she has had a huge piece of my heart.
Beanie babies were big when Sam was about two and I, of course, endeavored to get her all of them. In the process, I found a cute shirt for her that had beanie babies on it. My sister-in-law called me to tell me that Sam was wearing her shirt and was outside playing with one of her friends. Deb could hear them talking and heard the little friend say to Sam, “I like your shirt. Where did you get it?” Sam answered, “My Aunt Toon [my nickname] got it for me.” “What is an Aunt Toon?” Sam’s friend asked. “The best aunt in the world” was Sam’s response.
I remember asking my mom if she thought two was too young for a Rolex.
She was a funny kid – at times very mischievous. But when she looked at you with those big blue innocent eyes, it was impossible to get mad at her.
Will, her brother, was born about two and a half years after Sam. Shortly after Will’s birth, my brother was transferred and he and Deb needed to look for a new house. Sam and Will came to stay with my parents in Philadelphia. Again, Aunt Toon was asked to babysit and I gladly took a day off of work to spend with the kids.
I have to admit, I was a little nervous. I once made a man cry in a deposition, but here I was back to a baby (who, by the way, was ten pounds twelve ounces when he was BORN) who couldn’t hold his head up or keep most of his food inside his body. Added to the mix now was a precocious toddler.
Also joining us that day was Sam’s favorite baby doll whom she named, all on her own, Wynonna. None of us could figure that one out.
I spent the day pretty much focused on the baby, while keeping an eye peeled for Sam. I had a hard time keeping Will happy. At one point, I walked through my parents’ front hall carrying Will and trying to soothe him. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Samantha upstairs. Next thing I know, Wynonna comes flying down the stairs into the front hall.
Dealing with Will, I didn’t have time to react. About a minute later Sam tugs on my shirt and says very matter-of-factly, “Wynonna is crying.”
I am a bit short on patience at this point and responded, “Well of course she is crying
devil child. You threw her down the stairs!”
She looked up at me. I swear the blue eyes grew in front of my own eyes. And they became bluer. And kind of reflected back at me. And then this two and a half-year old says to me, very calmly, “did you SEE me throw Wynonna down the stairs?”
I walked straight to the phone and called my mom. “You gotta come home. If this kid’s head starts spinning around on her body, I am out of here.”
Somehow, sixteen more years quickly passed and Sam has grown into an incredible young woman.
She reminds me of myself in some ways. She is quiet, but I wouldn’t call her shy. She does not like conflict or confrontation. She is not one to lose her temper quickly, but she is very emotional.
Of course I think she is beautiful, smart and athletic – and I am not biased. But most importantly, I know that she is kind, thoughtful and genuine.
I remember telling Sam, when she was very young, that she needed to understand that I would always be there for her and her brother – no matter what the circumstances or need. In many ways through the years, though, I feel as if Sam has been there for me.
For a number of reasons, my husband and I did not have children. There have been times that I have wondered if at some point in my life that choice will make me sad. The thought of having someone with whom you connect on such a deep (even cellular) level is incredible. And then I think of Sam – and I truly feel that we have that connection.
Here is the part that makes me a little emotional – it is the effort that Sam makes to give me that feeling. And it is not just in her adult years, but it has been all through her childhood. Sam has always made me feel special in her life. There are no words to describe how meaningful it has been and continues to be to me.
Happy Birthday Sammy Kay. I am so grateful for you in my life and love you so much. And I think Wynonna may be crying again … but this time happy tears.