Since I live so far away and rarely get back to Ontario to visit the fam, when I do get to visit, I’m a rock star as far as my six-year-old niece is concerned. She insists on sitting next to me at every meal, she insists that I sleep with her every night and she follows me around everywhere I go. “I like what you like,” she told me. All this is great as far as I’m concerned, ‘cuz she’s the most amazing kid ever and if she weren’t my shadow, then I’d be the one insisting on sitting next to her at every meal, sleeping with her every night and following her around everywhere she goes.
Right now, she’s big into dinosaurs. We’ve read her dinosaur encyclopedia about a thousand times1, watched both Jurassic Park I and II2, and have spent most of this holiday crawling around the house playing Mommy Brachiosaurus and Baby Brachiosaurus. When I was six, I remember being really into dinosaurs, but to my recollection, there were only ever like five dinosaurs: brontosaurus, stegosaurus, triceratops, pterodactyl and, of course, the T. rex. Now, there’s about a million different species of dinosaurs that they teach you about in grade 1 – including the velociraptors (which I never heard about until Jurassic Park came out) and the Albertasaurus.
Another big hit around here is Pet Shops. She has about a zillion little plastic animals of all sorts and, of course, there are accompanying pet shop houses, vet clinics, etc., etc., etc. So far, I’ve only been roped into playing Pet Shops once, which is pretty amazing considering how many of them she has and how much she likes them. Of course, I may be entertaining her with non-Pet Shop related games, such as Hide and Go Seek and yoga. Yoga may not seem like a game to you, but to a six-year-old – totally a great game.
Probably my two favourite memories from this trip, however, are distinctly Christmas-related. One is singing “The 12 Days of Christmas” on the subway. Now, neither my niece nor I have particularly good singing voices – in fact, I think we both may be tone-deaf. So while we were singing it – she would sing “On the Xth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…” and I would have to respond with the appropriate items – at first, all I could think was, “Everyone on this subway must hate us right now!” But then seeing the HUGE smile on her face as we sang, I didn’t care. We were having fun and that’s what counts! I mentioned it to my sister afterwards and she said, “Oh no, people were grinning their faces off!”
My other favourite memory from this trip happened on Christmas morning. Madeline and I slept in the attic, as my mom and dad had also slept over that night and they were sleeping in Madeline’s room. When we got up, there was a candy cane with a little bow and a string on it in the bed – a candy cane that had not been there when she went to sleep. “What’s that?” I said. “A candy cane,” she replied. “Where’d it come from?” I asked. And she turned her adorable little face up to the skylight in the attic ceiling, her eyes wide. After a moment, she said, “I think Santa must have dropped it in.” And with that, it was time to open some presents!