Today I got the first inkling of things to come with my niece Tara. It'sher 11th birthday today and I decided to try and call her as soon as she got home from school to sing to her and wish her a happy birthday. My Mom told me that Tara got off the bus at 3:15 PM Indiana time (2:15 PM Montana time)and she was planning on taking some balloons up to her so I thought that would be a good time to give her a buzz. "Happy Birthday to you, happy birthday to you....", I had barely finished the song when she announced that her friend Jordan was there with her. "Great", I said , "did you have a fun day at school? Are you excited for your birthday? Have you gotten any treats yet? Do you feel older?" "Well, my teacher totally embarrassed me", she said, "and everyone sang happy birthday to me...it was totally embarrassing". "Ah, c'mon, that's pretty cool", was my response, "they must really like you". "Not in this century, uncle John, that's totally embarrassing". "Oh", I said, with a little chuckle, "well, I think it's pretty cool anyway. So, what else are you doing?" "Well, I have alot of homework, and like I said, Jordan is here". We talked for a few minutes more during which time she asked if I'd be home next year for her birthday and then she whipped out the statement, "well, actually, I'd love to talk to you longer, but I DO have alot of homework to do and, well, ya know, Jordan is here."
And just like that, I was dissed. In that short moment I realized the little girl who used to cry when I would leave, who couldn't wait to see me, who loved to hang out with me and thought I could do no wrong, in that moment I knew things had changed. I'm not trying to be dramatic, after all it was pretty damn funny when I thought about it; an 11 year-old using the phrase "actually, I'd love to talk to you longer" in a sentence...that phrase is usually reserved for women who are in the process of breaking up with me. Now I knew it would happen someday, after all it is a phase we all go through...that phase when grown-ups just stop being cool, but I just didn't expect it to happen so soon with Tara. She's as close to being a daughter to me than I've ever had (and at the rate I'm going, will ever have) and it was both hilarious and heartbreaking to hear those words.
I called my Mom right afterwards and told her my tale...we both laughed until we cried. "Well actually, well actually" I kept saying, over and over. I'm sure my Mom thought it was even funnier than me. Ah, life; it's pretty darn funny.