The holidays are over, and I was sorry to see them end.
I am back at work, and this morning my mother will take my brothers and my sister-in-law and my nephew to the airport for their flights home. I was sad to have to say "Good-bye" to them last night (I left the house very early this morning, before anyone else was up).
My nephew is amazing. He is not the same person I last saw over the Labor Day weekend.
Since then, he has been weaned off the bottle, and he eats solid food now, three times a day. He eats baby cereal, and crushed bananas, and pureed pears and pureed peaches and pureed apricots, and applesauce, and mashed potatoes, and macaroni and cheese, and peas, and butter beans, and cut-up wax beans, and boiled chicken cut up into little tiny pieces for him. He eats unsalted crackers, and butter cookies, and jello, and puddings.
He drinks milk from a baby cup, and he drinks special baby orange juice and special baby apple juice from a baby cup.
He has just learned to walk, and he can easily negotiate around a room by leaning on furniture for support. He can even walk across a room, by himself, if necessary, although he is still a little tentative in that regard.
He loves to have his toys all over the room, on the floor, so that he can go back and forth between them. He looks at us and listens to us as we talk, and he loves to be held and talked to, and he loves it when we sit on the floor and play with him and his toys. He loves having the dog with him, on the floor, too, and he tries to get the dog to play with his toys.
Although this Christmas was, technically, my nephew's second Christmas with us, last Christmas he was only two months old and he slept most of the time. It was exciting having him with us, of course, but all we could do was to hold him and feed him his bottle. This Christmas he was an actual participant in our activities.
He was a lot of fun, and all of us had a lot of fun, watching him and holding him and playing with him.
I will never forget the first time I saw him. It was Thursday night, November 10, 2005, and I had driven up to New York from Washington for the Veterans Day weekend in order to see him and in order to help my brother and my sister-in-law. My nephew was only two weeks old, and I was the first member of my family to see him, other than his parents.
I remember that I was so nervous that I was afraid to hold him without first sitting down. I remember how utterly beautiful he was. I remember how immensely proud my brother was, and how he could not stop himself from smiling. That was one of the greatest moments of my life.
The next day, my parents arrived, and I remember how my mother cried the first time she saw her new grandchild. It was one of the greatest moments of her life, too.
When that weekend was over, I had to return to Washington, but my parents remained behind for a week in order to help my brother and my sister-in-law.
I did not see my nephew again until Christmas, because my brother and his wife did not want to travel to Minneapolis for Thanksgiving with a one-month old baby--they decided to wait until Christmas, when he was two months old.
For the three years I was in law school, I was practically a member of my brother's household, as I would visit on weekends every three or four weeks. I loved going to see my brother and his wife, and my brother and his wife loved having me.
One thing I was able to do for them was to do a major portion of their food shopping for them. The foods stores in New York are not good--selection is poor, quality is variable, prices are high--so before each visit to New York I would drive from Washington to the Virginia suburbs, and visit two or three vast supermarkets, and buy tons of food for my brother's family. I would buy everything from meat to produce to canned goods to frozen goods to dairy products to cleaning products, and I would drive to New York with a trunk-load of provisions for them, enough to keep them going until my next visit. I always kept my sister-in-law's kitchen cupboards fully stocked, so that she had to do very little food shopping in New York.
When she was expecting, and after my nephew was born, I would do the heavy housecleaning for her and for my brother, and I would cook for them, and do laundry, and make myself useful in any way I could, to show my appreciation for their welcoming me so often into their home. I almost wish I was still back in law school, so that I could see them every three or four weeks.
I did not want a car when I went to law school, but my parents insisted on buying one for me anyway. As it turns out, it was a good thing. Without the car, I would not have been able to keep my brother's New York kitchen so well-stocked.
My parents worried about me the entire time I was in law school. I lived on Capitol Hill, and Capitol Hill is not the safest of neighborhoods. It was, however, very conveniently situated to school.
I was always very careful, especially at night, and I never encountered any trouble. However, after I graduated, my mother told me that she and my father had prayed for my safety every single night, for the entire three years I was in Washington, and she told me that often, during the day, she would say another quick prayer, asking for my safekeeping.
I told my mother that her prayers had worked!