A new baby is coming. I'm going to be an auntie for the 18th time. I can't wait to hold this wee one in my arms. Hug and kiss the little cherub cheeks, smell the fresh, new smell of dewy life, let the tiny fingers grasp mine and hold and hold and hold.
I love the 17 n&ns (nieces and nephews) that surround me now. The two oldest, Mx and Jo, are getting taller and taller every day and starting to look like the teenagers they are fast becoming. The older middles are preteen and charming. You know that great stage where they still love hanging out with you and are easy to entertain and love to chat about their lives? That is the space that K, Ab, C, P and Mt occupy.
Then there are the middle littles--N, JB, D1, D2, and G. They are at the "best buddy" stage that I adore. They want to be my best buddy. These are the ones that like to run errands with me or go for a walk or come to my house and eat popcorn and play with toys. They can't wait to hang out and tell stories. One of my favorite times each week is when they come home with me after church on Sunday. For just a little while, they fill my house with their brand of exuberance and joy.
And then there are the five wee littles. They are toddling and vocalizing and growing. They are just past the baby stage but still getting the hang of walking and talking. The whole world is wide open for them. And they each seem to change daily. Like little E who was away for two weeks and has grown an inch it seems. And baby M whose face changes just enough every few weeks that it's like I'm rediscovering him each time I see him again. They also have a special place in the family as "the five." They made a big splash in our family in one year and we are grateful for each and every one of them and the joy and vigor they've added to us.
So, number 18, we welcome you to this ever-expanding brood with our jokes and our noise and the general hubbub that descends when we gather together. And we gather together a lot. And sing a funny birthday song. And with so many of us now, we sing that funny birthday song a lot too.
We do it though because we think it is rare for so many of us to be nearby to each other for a few short years. And I want to hold on to everyone of those few short years left to us. And hold and hold and hold.