My parents moved into a new home in a new town in the spring of 1984, shortly before I arrived home from grad school. I wound up living with them and working locally for the next 14 months while I planned my wedding to dh.
The neighbours across the street had two small boys -- AND a new baby girl -- a real cutie with strawberry blond hair, big, long-lashed blue eyes and a rosebud mouth. Little boys I couldn't quite relate to, but a little girl -- well, THAT, my family had experience with. We were all quite taken with her.
Almost as soon as she could walk, she was toddling over to our house to play. We'd watch her from the living room window as she tromped through snowdrifts & stomped on every frozen puddle along the way, lol. My mom dusted off the ancient high chair that had belonged to me & my sister, as well as our old toys & books. My dad would give her piggy back rides and build tents with her, as he had done with me & my sister and our cousins, and my mom would sit on the stairs with her & "play cards," helping her learn her numbers by reading the numbers on the cards & counting the number of aces or hearts on them. As she got older, she loved to join in our family's card & board games (still does!).
When dh & I arrived home for our first married Christmas, Parents' Neighbours' Daughter (PND) was the guest of honour on Christmas Day, resplendent in purple velveteen, and was showered with gifts. Eventually, she got her own stocking under the tree at our house. She would come over for dinner on Christmas Eve and then back again the next morning to open presents with us, after opening gifts with her own family. Sometimes the other members of her family would come over too (we'd have small gifts for them too). She hasn't always been able to make it on one day or the other, but to this day, some time during Christmas week, she will stop by for dinner, open her gifts and play cards with us.
Christmas 1998 was a difficult one for my family, reeling from the loss of both my baby & my beloved grandfather, who had spent every single Christmas with us, no matter where we lived. PND, then 14, was a godsend, giving us something else to focus on and lending our family a much-needed dose of holiday spirit.
When I started scrapbooking in 2002, one of my first projects was to make a scrapbook as a high school graduation gift for PND (something only a clueless beginner would take on...! lol). I had so many cute photos of her from almost day one to share. It was a labour of love. The scrapbook eventually became a gargantuan project (I actually wound up giving her the first part for graduation & the rest of the pages as I finished them). A scrapbooker herself, she was flabbergasted when she opened the package. "I can't believe you did this for me," she said, giving me a big hug. Everyone -- her parents, my parents -- got misty-eyed looking through the pages.
She once called me her "role model." She forever endeared herself to me when my mother told me a story: in conversation with little PND, my mother once said, "We all know who's the REAL boss around here" (meaning herself, joking). PND nodded solemnly & said, "Lori." lol
When PND was little, she referred to my parents as her best friends. When she got older and went to school, she started making friends her own age, but she would still come over to watch TV, help my mother make cookies and wrap Christmas presents, etc., albeit with less frequency. When PND's parents & brothers moved away, after she was finished high school, she spent one summer living with my parents. She continued to live in the town where she'd grown up on her own, work part-time and commute into the city to go to school, an hour away. She started going out with Fiancé four years ago, & eventually moved in with him.
This week, she called dh & me (& tickled us both hugely by doing so) to tell us the big news -- she's engaged!! The community hall is already booked for the Victoria Day long weekend in May.
So -- on top of my 25th wedding anniversary, my parents 50th & a family reunion next summer, I've also got to set aside time to fly home in May for a few days for her wedding. (eek) Needless to say, wild horses wouldn't keep me away.
It is bittersweet to think of PND getting married. I keep thinking "She's too young!" -- but she will actually be 26 by the time of the wedding. I was 24. (yikes) She has one more year of school left -- she's going to be a teacher (& she will be a great one, too).
I remember when we had a big party to celebrate my dad's 50th birthday. PND was 6 years old then. My aunts wanted to take a family photo. "I'm part of the family too," PND piped up. "Yes, I guess you are!" my mom said, laughing, & welcomed her into the photo.
And she is. My parents have sometimes referred to her as "the honorary grandchild." She certainly helped fill my parents' empty nest after my sister & I had left home, & took (some of) the pressure off dh & me as newlyweds on the grandchild front.
My sister has referred to her as "our little sister" (and you can almost hear the air quotes as she says it). I don't know exactly how to label our relationship. I know I am old enough to be her mother, but it's hard to imagine myself having a daughter that old.
All I do know is that I feel so lucky & privileged to have had this girl in my family's life (and grateful to her own family for sharing her with us). I may never have had a living child of my own to parent… but I've played a part in PND's life and been able to watch her grow up into a beautiful & accomplished young woman. I will never see my own little girl dressed in bridal white, walking down the aisle, but I will be there when PND does. My parents may never have their own grandchildren, but they have watched PND grow up and have played a significant role in her life. The geographic distances between us being what they are, I know they have spent far more time with PND than they ever could have with any grandchildren I ever could have given them.
We are all so very proud of her.
And I know that I'm going to be a blubbering mess next May 22nd.