When I was 13, my cousin Julia was born. And I couldn't have been more ecstatic! Being an only child, I begged my parents for years to have another baby. "I want someone to play with!" I'd say. "You have your cousin Nicolle to play with!" they'd counter. And so it went. For years, we were the youngest two people in our family, the only cousins close enough in age and relation and physical proximity to play together.
Until my aunt, Nicolle's mother, remarried and got pregnant. And oh how happy I was! A baby! To play with and feed and cuddle with and teach naughty words to! (Ed. note: teaching a 1-year old to say "Truck you" is HILARIOUS.) And so a few days before Easter Sunday 14 years ago, very early in the morning, Julia Veronica was born. And she was cute and perfect and cuddly and awesome.
As she got older, I would go over to my aunt's house to help out. I'd let my sleep-deprived aunt sleep in while I got up with Julie and fed her breakfast, I'd change her diapers, play with her, teach her naughty words, everything I said I wanted to do with her.
And one day I was coming down the wood stairs in my socks. Julie was about 10 months old and wearing a fuzzy, white footy pajama thing with a big brown bear on the front--I will forever remember that. I must have just gone up to get her from a nap. I took three steps down the staircase and BOOM. My socked feet flew out in front of me on the slippery varnished parquet and I hit the steps hard on my back. My instant--and I mean INSTANT--reaction was to hold Julie to my chest with my left arm and cup the back of her head with my right hand, instead of bracing my fall or catching my footing. We slid all the way to the bottom of the stairs like that, her pressed against my chest and me stifling my screams so as not to scare her. At the bottom of the steps I propped her on my lap and looked at her, trying to determine if I'd a) killed her in the fall or b) suffocated her from holding her to tightly. She wasn't crying...she was just blinking. She had this half-dazed, half-sleepy look on her face like she was all, "Dude, what just happened?" And then she stuck her fingers in my mouth and looked towards the kitchen and I knew she was fine. I sat there for a good minute, just looking at her, thinking about what could've happened. The fact that I'd just descended 13 steps on my spine didn't even cross my mind.
I carefully got up and stumbled into the kitchen and put her in her high chair. Only after I put some Cherrios in her tray did I stop to examine my wounds: bruised butt, check. Bruised coccyx, double check. Bruised entire-lower-back area, check. Aching spine and head? Yup. Bruised elbows? Oh yeah. I pulled my shirt back down and looked at Julie. She was smiling up at me with whole grain O's all over her face. I took her tiny hand and said, "I'm sorry, kid. I promise I won't ever scare you like that again." And almost like she knew what I was saying, she squeezed my hand and pulled me closer to her face. "I'll take that as a 'you're welcome," I said to her.
The moral of the story? There is none. Just that 14 years later, she's alive and well. And you can tell from the picture below that she just loves that I still call her "kid."