I am not close with my family. Without going into the ins and outs of why, we'll just say I'm not, and I'm okay with it.
That said, I have always had a soft spot in my heart towards my nieces and nephews, my two brother's children. There are three nieces and three nephews, and they're all extraordinary and brilliant in their own way, and despite not having done a good job maintaining my relationship with them (because of the aforementioned non-closeness,) I have always, always adored them, and would pretty much jump in front of a train for them.
Last weekend, I was given an opportunity I hadn't expected. I was asked to arrange flowers for one of my nieces' wedding in Hood River, Oregon. (In case you didn't know, I was a florist in another life, and so often when someone in my family gets married, I do the flowers.) But because I have an estranged relationship with much of my family, I had originally planned on simply taking the flowers to the venue, sitting quietly in the back at the ceremony, wishing my niece well, then hitting the road to GTFO.
But instead something magical happened.
My oldest niece, the bride's sister, asked me to drive wagon-train style to Oregon with her little family, where we stayed in the same hotel. I was able to play with her six year old, and cuddle with her four month old, and share a dinner with she and her husband. These small acts made me feel important and needed, in circumstances where I needed that reassurance badly. The way those two little kids smile and hug me fills my heart in a way I didn't think possible.
And as if that weren't enough to fill my soul for a good long while, my second oldest niece, the Bride-to-Be, asked my daughter (a gifted makeup artist) to do her makeup, and then asked if she could spend the morning of her wedding with us in our hotel room, getting ready for her ceremony.
I was flabbergasted. Utterly flummoxed in the best possible way.
Instead of hanging with friends, she chose to be with me--the aunt nobody likes, the family black sheep. We spent hours (her, her sister the Matron of Honor, her niece, my mother, my daughter, and me) in our hotel room doing makeup, giggling, talking, and gossiping. We discussed silly topics and serious ones. I got to know my nieces more than I ever have before, and I discovered that they are some of the kindest, most loving young women I've ever met. It felt like they were seeing me, and I was seeing them, 100% clearly for the first time. I loved every second of it.
I never would've thought that I would be the person my niece--and her sister, for that matter--would've wanted to spend such a special morning with.
And my heart overflowed as a result.
Literally never been so happy. And it was in the midst of one of the most awkward and uncomfortable weekends I've ever had.
And you know what? I learned something, too. I am important to people. I haven't believed that for a long, long time. I've been living my life under the assumption that I am very, very disposable to folks. That my presence is neither wanted, nor required amongst most people. But for some reason, I was not only wanted, but needed, and it. felt. great. You know what felt equally great? I realized that I needed them right back. *shuddering sigh*
What a cool experience.
I loved being a part of such a special day.
I will always, always be grateful for the experience, and for the love my oldest niece has shown me lately. It really is something to feel like I have a place in the crazy, dysfunctional, whackadoodle puzzle that is my family. Maybe someday I'll find my place with the rest of my nieces and nephews, too. If I don't, that's okay. Like I said before, I'm okay with the way things are. But if I do, I can't imagine how full my heart will be.
Thank you, Ry and Bean.