30 October, 2006

A Note to a Niece

Update: I completely forgot to come back and link to Blest, who made the necklaces! I meant to do so immediately, but .... :8(

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I wrote a birthday note to my nieces, and thought you might get a kick out of seeing how I torment the youth in my life. I have anonymized it, in case you are wondering why I use the awkward, "your cousin," over and over.

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Happy Birthday, (Niece)!

11 years old. I remember a little bit about being 11. My teacher was Mrs. Smith, and she was really different. She was always going 100 miles an hour, and she wanted to show us a dozen new things every day. The world was really exciting for her, and we used to like the fun things she did. Your mom probably remembers more about her than I do, but I bet she was probably a hippy at heart. Mostly, 6th grade, though, was the last grade before Junior High. :-)

Your cousin is 18 years old, and she is in college right now. I'm guessing that sounds like it is really old to you, and like it will be a lifetime before you are 18 years old and in college. To me, it sounds like the blink of an eye.

In my mind, I imagine you reading this silly little birthday letter, and right about here your eyes feel a little dry and you blink. When your eyes open, your hand is big enough to wrap around a baseball, and you are so well trained in English that you can see all the little punctuation errors I make in this letter. Suddenly, you are 18 years old, and you are away in a dorm room in college looking at the present your crazy, old uncle just sent you and reading this note.

It's funny for you, being in college.

You have a lot more friends, and they are better friends, but you don't have as much time to be with them. And a lot of what you do together is work.

You have more friends because the more adult a person becomes, the more they work to accept the people around them. Some of the kids that you didn't like back in grade school, you like now because you are more mature. Your cousin went to a movie the other night with her friends, but it was not just any movie. She went to a movie where her friend was acting. Kind of. Everyone knows the movie, so some of the kids dress up like the actors and actresses in the movie, and while the movie is showing on the screen, they stand up on the stage and act the movie out! So, you can watch the movie and you can watch your friends acting the movie at the same time. In grade school, that friend might have seemed wierd, but in college she's just a lot of fun.

Acting a movie like that sounds like a lot of fun to me! I was jealous.

Your friends are better, because they let you be different. When I was a kid, I used to get teased because I was a dork, and none of the kids would hang out with me. Now that I'm an adult, I get teased because I'm still a dork, but everyone hangs out with me anyway and we have fun. It's not like I suddenly became one of the cool kids. They just learned that dorks can be fun, too, and we talk and laugh a lot. Let's just say there wasn't much laughing with the other kids for us dorks when I was your age.

In college, you don't have as much time with the other kids, even though they are great friends, because you have so much to do. Grade school is an odd time, because you are learning harder and harder stuff, and for the littlest reasons. Learning how to count is pretty easy. But learning how to add is harder. Learning how to subtract is even harder. Then multiplying is really hard, and dividing (especially long division) is really hard to do right. And the only reason for learning that math is so you can learn harder math later!

Ah, but now that you have blinked, and you are in college you know why you are learning all that.

Your cousin is still not sure what she is going to be, but she is thinking about biology now. Biologists study living things. They are not doctors, who try to heal people and animals, but scientists who try to understand what kinds of things are alive, and how they succeed at life. So they study how many ants can live in one anthill if there are berries around, or how long a cell can live in your body if you eat nothing but peanut butter. It takes really hard math to figure out the answers to those questions, but it's OK, because she knows that she wants to do it. Now that you're in college, you know why you are working, too.

And it's really cool, because your college friends are all working as hard as you are, and a lot of the time they are learning the same stuff that you are. Back when you were in grade school, everyone was always learning the same thing, but it's not like that in college. Everyone wants to do something different, so everyone is learning something different. But, you are never learning anything alone. If you are taking biology, there are forty other kids learning it with you, and you get to work on biology together. You are allowed to help each other a lot, and it makes learning a lot more fun.

Some of your friends are taking biology with you, and some of them are taking math, but there's a lot more to take. Maybe you are taking literature. That's probably the most fun thing to take in college. I know it sounds boring, but it's not. In grade school, you had to learn where to put a comma in a sentence. (Or your, sentences, would be really hard, to read.) In college, you know all that, and now you are working on what you really mean to say when you are writing. Studying literature is studying what happens inside people's hearts and minds when good things and bad things happen to them.

I just read a book about a man who was so mean that he hurt all his friends, and lived his whole life alone. There was even a girl who wanted to fall in love with him, and he was so mean that he hurt her feelings and she never came back. But, the book was not about what happened. The book was about what he was thinking the whole time while he was being so mean. It was scary and cool, because so many of the things that he was thinking are things that I think too, but am afraid to admit. For 100 pages, I got to be someone that I am afraid to be, and that I don't even want to be. I got to feel what it is like to be a nasty person, and think about it. So, I got to learn some things that I do that are stupid, and hopefully, I learned not to do them as much.

If you are taking literature in college, you are learning what it's like to be a completely different kind of person than you are now.

But, you also get to do more fun stuff. Your cousin lives 600 miles away from me. I can't even tell you what she's doing any more, because I don't know, but she tells me that it's really exciting. Now that you are 18, bet you are doing some exciting things too.

You look away from this little letter, and you think about what you are going to do tonight, and you get a little smile on your face.

And you blink again.

And your hand won't wrap around a baseball any more. Suddenly, it's 2006 again, and you're not 18 any more. You have to go back to grade school again tomorrow, and learn all that boring stuff. But some day... Some day it will be just like the blink of an eye, and you will be on your way to having your own family, and your own kids to teach about life.

And then you'll be glad that you didn't hurry, and skip all the way to 18 years old in a blink. Really.

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I hope you like your necklace. I know you look really, really pretty anyway, but I hope you're just a little prettier with it on.

I had a friend who makes jewelry for people all over the world make it for you. I tried to design it for you the best I could, and I hope I did alright. If not, forgive me, and know that I love you anyway.

Happy Birthday!

4 comments:

Milly said...

You sir are one great uncle!

blestwithsons said...

Awwww. That is too sweet. And if your daughter went to the movie I think she went to (Time Warp anyone??) ...For Shame!! (hee hee) I used to go to that at the Rialto Theater in Raleigh. I still know a lot of the lines. But no - I wasn't on stage.

I hope they liked the necklaces. Did you like them?

codepoke said...

Hmmm. I was going to say you are wrong about Time Warp, then I researched what Time Warp might be, and ooops. Yep, you got it.

Shows what I know.

As for the necklaces, you do great work! I loved them. I should know whether they liked them some time next month. Our family doesn't do so good on the whole correspondence thing. One would think, as verbose as we all can be, that we would drop an occasional line to each other, but no.

blestwithsons said...

I was off to bed last night with lines going through my head. Plus I remembered - which I had forgotten - about Meatloaf's unnerving appearance in the film. And only now do I see the irony in his being named Meatloaf! AAIEE!

Don't watch the movie, Kev. It's, well, blech! Doing the Time Warp is the best part. Hmmm..I wonder if I still remember all the steps?