austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

Where you feel at home

My turn to meet my niece would come the next weekend, in what had been meant as Siblings Weekend even though I was the only person in the world to stick to the schedule. I went up with my parents who were taking a second chance to visit and see what their granddaughter was like. I was eager to see her and also pretty anxious that I not do anything too dopey overall. See, I don't really have a mental model for how ``uncles'' behave, except in what's picked up from popular culture, where they are (in sitcoms before 1970) slightly gruff, pudgy men in black-and-white with vague ties to children who talk precociously, or (in sitcoms after 1970) younger and thinner but mostly comic relief who subvert the real father's authority except in the Emotional Moment of the episode. I have a couple of actual biologically-related uncles, but they always lived several states away, so we interacted for a couple of days once a year or even more rarely, and they left little real impression. Given the problems those uncles have experienced with things like the fire which melted the volunteer fire department's fire truck that may be a good thing.

Happily, she's at the age --- two --- when there are very few specific needs for an uncle to do anything. Being present seems adequate, and being willing to make faces back at her carried me far. She also gave every sign of being fascinated by my beard, which her parents believe may be the first she'd seen. Also my souvenir of their trip --- an auspicious red cap with that long ponytail braid --- was another source of fascination. You can't fault the child's sense of wonder and curiosity about the world even if she did threaten to unbraid the ponytail. She's very tactile. She had also already come to a very practical arrangement with the cat, by which she would open up the vertical blinds wide enough for the cat to look outside and in exchange the cat would refrain from sneaking up from behind while she sits and startling her.

She also has a clear sense of how the world ought to be ordered, as evidenced by things like her taking the tray side off of a plastic chair sized just for her and putting it atop the seat so she could move it to the right place, and getting into a bit of a struggle with my father who kept trying to put the tray back on the chair in the snapped-in-place position before she had finished moving the chair. He kept snapping the tray in place and she kept taking it off so she could finish her work. I empathized, and warned her, he's always like that.

Trivia: Around 1815 New Hampshire's Jacob Cochran began spreading the word he was the Holy Ghost. By 1818 Cochran announced expected ``to have the United States, in the present season, under his control'', with the note that he would soon have ``universal dominion'' over the entire world. At the time his Society of Free Brethren, with strongholds in Maine's Oxford, York, and Cumberland counties, claimed two thousand members. Source: Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson, David S Reynolds.

Currently Reading: Carrying The Fire: An Astronaut's Journeys, Michael Collins.

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