Lessons with my niece

My niece. Photo taken in June 2020.

Is it so wrong of me to crave adoration from my niece whenever I untangle her slinky or teach her a new trick? That I ask this betrays my guilt.

Yesterday we were playing chefs. With her toy spatula, she tried to remove a half-slice of miniature watermelon from a miniature frying pan but ended up pushing so hard that the fruit flew and landed on the floor. I suggested dividing the task into two parts: (1) lifting the edge of the watermelon with the edge of the spatula; then (2) sliding the latter to the bottom of the former as gently as possible.

We did it. There was me, an effective teacher and her, a bright student.

The moment felt like a reward I didn't work for, because I was having fun. Looking back, however, changes my perspective, or rather creates this desire in me for her to remember everything as I do — with awareness of how and why our time together was perfect. Is that so wrong?

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This poem is for my niece, with much inspiration from A Little Tooth by Thomas Lux.

Lessons with my niece

You were four when I taught you how to flip plastic eggs
With a plastic spatula. The look of wonder
On your face is frozen in my head.

Soon we learned to read time and got the months
In order. You were six and dared to run
Downstairs on your own.

When you’re old enough for things like patience
Or sensible arguments, I will ask, How much of us
Do you remember?

Maybe then the world has already trained you to lie
To placate a woman desperate
For a few hours more of play.

—Razel Estrella (August 2020)

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