When They Grow & Go
Updated: Aug 8, 2019
I can still hear them calling me.
"Ya Yak!! Ya YAK!! Can we go outside?"
Let me first explain, Ya Yak.
Isabella who is now almost 24 was two years old and could not say Veronica. What came out of her mouth was Ya Yak. That became my name for all of the little ones to follow....four more to be exact.
It was a term of endearment that is tatooed upon my heart and will forever be my Most Favorite Aunt name. I wear it as a badge of honor.
Along my writings you will read about the long term illness, Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS), I experienced in my 30s - a long term retreat for my soul. Like a big ole Sumo Wrestler, it knocked me down, dragged me about and got me to Dallas still crawling on my knees in a daze at times, lingering in fear mixed with steadfast affirmations of accepting health and Wholeness supporting me through the darkest days. There was a gift waiting for me. Three to begin with and four more to arrive.
Little did I know when I came home at 34 that I was only a little less than midway of my 10 year journey. Little did I know the exquisite jewels that would arrive in those precious moments with my nieces and nephews, trinkets and treasures along the way.
My mother opened her heart and home to welcome me back to recuperate. I lost everything in Los Angeles. My job. My title. My salary. My financial mobility. My dreams. My partner. My friends. Any semblance of a normal life evaporated like the fog when the sun kisses it away.
I arrived into the unknown but a familiar, sacred space. Into my monk's room I entered - the childhood room I shared with my sister, Denise, until I kicked her out at 16 because I had to have my own space (honestly, I don't even remember being such an ass but cringe thinking about it even though she did enjoy her own sanctuary).
Through the years, my pint sized gurus (nieces and nephews) brought me smack dabble in the midst of the present moment. As I watched the miracle of their growth in height, I would mark it along the door frame. The measurements would continue to move up until they reached their final height. The changes ensued as they will for the rest of their lives and for as long as I am here to bear witness to them. I remember each time I measured them and the smile they would have for getting taller. In between each inch of height were volumes of memories.
A month ago, my niece Hannah made some funny remark about not growing anymore. A sophomore in college, she was hoping for a little more height. Then Macie, my other niece (her cousin), chimed in with some funny remark. We all laughed. The fact that they still go back there to talk and connect makes my heart sing.
I flashback to when they were little and would come sit in that room with me (which is now my mother's guest room) and watch "Finding Nemo," read books, nap, jump on the bed, dance and more. If I was sleeping in, they would sneak in and scream in my ear, "Wake UP! Wake UP!"
To be a witness of their growth - not just in their physical bodies but mental, emotional and spiritual as well - has been the greatest joy. To be a presence for them where we hung out in the backyard traveling to mysterious dimensions that we created with a magical, mystical, turquoise crayon, opening dimensional doors to other universes (Macie) or paint sunsets with the stroke of their hand with their wild, wavy hair (Anthony), or listen to a litany of places one dreamed of traveling to (Vincent), or playing soccer of boys vs girls (Matthew with my brother Danny, Monica and me with our team name, "the Onicas") or write books of poems with drawings (Bella and Hannah), are just a few of the memories that are imprinted upon my soul.
Then they go.
One by one.
Off to school.
Off to a new career.
Off to their own apartments.
Off to other cities.
Off to get married.
Learning to navigate the human terrain of the complexities of relationships and the realizations of what is necessary to grow up and be a responsible citizen, they grow.
I have thousands of pages, literally, of our times woven in between the threads of fear, worry, doubt and crushed expectations of my next steps. I saved their drawings and videos keep them frozen at certain ages with their luminous personalities filling the screen of my Kodak Easy Share camera.
There are moments I reflect in such gratitude even with tears streaming down my face.
I wouldn't change a thing. I really wouldn't.
Anthony, who is 16, and I had gone out for a popsicle for me and a snocone for him. As he began to dig into his treat, we talked about the times together with me illuminating a bit more why I was really home - with a long term, mysterious illness (which is why we always had to have naps when my poor body couldn't stand up anymore or the energy dial was on zero even though I was having fun with them).
In that realization that we would have not known each other the way that we do and would not have had all of the fun we had, Anthony reflected that brilliant understanding that it all happened so we could be together. Otherwise, I would have been that cool aunt from California and not the Most Favorite Aunt who was there daily in their childhoods and am that unconditional place for them to share what is happening in their world.
I grew - internally, spiritually, emotionally - during that time. I slowly became more patient, more present, thanks to all of them. I crawled my way back into part time work and then nonprofit work. All of that slowly eroded the extra time we had for each other. It was working out - as they headed into Middle and High School their visits were not as many as they were learning about themselves and others, discovering dating and figuring out what to do and where to go for college.
Three of them head off to school this week and next. I know they have to go. This is what we prepare them for - to lift off like the little birds that the Mamma Sparrow taught to fly as Bella and I laid on a blanket in the backyard and witnessed in utter awe and wonder when she was three.
Just like the marking on the door frame, each memory is a etched upon our hearts, minds and souls. Nothing can ever take that away from us. The most precious resource - LOVE - that is ever flowing between us will forever bond us. For that, I will thank the CFIDS for arriving and dragging me home.
I had to GO, leave what was a life emerging and retreat to the darkest night of my soul only to find the brightest lights leading me home - my nieces and nephews - to my heart that has grown 10,000x.
For all of you mamma and pappas who are watching your babies fly, I feel you. I cannot imagine since these children did not come through me. I can tell you, I cried every time. That is just a reflection of how deeply I love them and how grateful I am that they were born and that I came home.
Yes. They Grow.
I continue to collect memories and magical moments with each of them. I look forward to witnessing their lives unfold. I pray, every day, for their best and highest GOOD.
They no longer call me Ya Yak. But if they did, I would turn around, with a heart wide open, laughing and receiving their beckon call with such present moment gratitude.