I have a secret. But you can’t tell anyone. It’ll completely ruin my reputation. Seriously now, I didn’t spend the last thirty years building up this flawless (cough, cough) image of who I am only to let one measly confession destroy it all.
Scoot closer. Lean in. Okay, are you ready? I want kids.
I think I need to vomit. Wait, no, I can’t breathe. And my vision is getting blurry.
Okay, so while I never said never-ever on the procreation front, having a kid was also never on my must-experience-before-I-die list. Fall madly in love with a man who loves me similarly, go on a safari in Africa, master cooking the perfect roasted chicken, write a book worth reading – yeah, those all made the list. Spend nine months hiding my fat ass under polyester tents, squeeze a watermelon through a hole the size of a quarter, convert my boobs into a local watering hole, change soupy poopy diapers – yeah, nowhere even near my list let alone on it.
I guess things can change.
On Saturday morning, my niece Olivia had a fever. Instead of leaping around the kitchen excitedly singing a song only she knows, she lazily lounged in her high chair pushing an uneaten Pop Tart around the tray. Her glassy eyes were half closed and her ponytail was already keeling to the right.
“Hold you,” she pleaded in my direction.
And so I plucked her wet noodle of a body from the confines of her personal dining table and curled her into my arms. As I rested her weight on my right hip, she nuzzled her head against my neck. Her body molded into mine while I walked circles around the dining table. I’m not going to lie, I melted.
In the scurry of relocating to Chuck E. Cheese with a detour to retrieve my parents, I plopped Olivia on the sofa and darted for the door. Around a half hour later, I was at the venue. In the distance I could see a hazy Olivia meandering into the party like a drunkard, her pink croc clad feet scuffing against the industrial carpeting.
“Do you want me to hold you?” my mother warmly asked Olivia.
“No!” she emphatically yelped. “Aunt Pay, hold you!” she said before zigzagging over to me. Sitting off to the side with Olivia on my lap and her head resting against my chest, I melted a little more.
By Sunday, Olivia was feeling well enough to have a crankfest. She halted long enough to say goodbye and give me a kiss, which involves her wet lips flatly pressing against my cheek. Then she went back to being whiny about something silly. When I slipped out the door she had a little bit of a foot stomp going and her favorite word ‘no’ was repeatedly passing through the air. Nonetheless, I somehow found it all endearing.
My flight home took two hours. Getting from the tarmac to the gate took another thirty minutes. Even though the carousel in baggage claim was rotating, the luggage didn’t plop down onto it for an hour. And thanks to an accident on the expressway, there was a five mile jam. By the time I got home, I was exhausted. I dropped my bags on the floor and my body on the sofa. I rifled through my mail, turned on my computer and kicked off my shoes. Then I grabbed the phone off the cradle and checked my messages.
“Hey Paige, it’s me. Just wanted to thank you for coming down this weekend to help Anders celebrate his birthday. It means a lot that you were here. Oh, and I think you have a new best friend. When I took Olivia upstairs for bed, she said, ‘I say night-night to Aunt Pay’ and looked around for you.”
Leslie’s message rambled on for another minute or so but I have no idea what she said. I was no longer paying attention. People, forget melting - I was a puddle on the floor.