This weekend I hosted my sister's two oldest girls. Visiting Los Angeles from a life lived in Oklahoma has eye opening moments. They noticed things about the city and its inhabitants that I never notice. They were keenly aware of the style choices made by other girls their age. They oohed and ahhed over the prettiness of the city, something I try to appreciate, but that really makes you grateful when seeing it through fresh eyes.
They bemoaned an Oklahoma they considered "boring," which prompted a lecture from me about the merits of our home state, which sequed into wistfulness as I waxed poetic about the wind sweeping down the plains.
I love these girls so much. There is an extra special something about girls born of your sister. They've been through a lot in their short life, and sometimes I'm not sure how to address some of the more complicated parts. I'm not in their regular routine like the rest of their extended family is, but I want our relationship to be open and loving in spite of the distance.
I heard this quote recently and it gave me comfort, as a parent, and as an aunt. I needlessly stress over the perfect words, when most of the time it's not exact phrases that are balms to the soul or the tip of the moral compass. With rare exceptions do I remember tiny details of someone else. But I have an overall vibe of their values, their voice, affection expressed or withheld. It's the package of a person.
Maybe the quote resonated with me because it's similar to my goal this year to Set the Tone. In my home, in my marriage, in my parenting, I'm purposefully creating an atmosphere. I want this season to have a color. I want my aunt-ing to have a note. It's a goal I walk toward blindly, as you can't measure success or failure until you look back with some perspective.
This is hard for me, this holding-your-breath-and-doing-the-best-you-can. 'Cause teenagers are tricky. And these two were my first.
PS - These two nieces are the older sisters of our sweet Carrie Ann, who was in the hospital over Christmas. I so appreciate the messages I've received from some of you asking about her, and I want you to know that she is doing better. There is still a lot to learn about her condition, but she we are thankful every day for her recovery.