During a conversation with my mother today, I came to a hard to believe realization. I realized possibly for the first time, that my niece Tess is no longer a little girl. Tess is now 17 years old! She is not the same adorable little baby that I witnessed being born! Gone is the cute little brown haired, brown eyed toddler that tightly held my hand each time we visited my great grandmother in the retirement home on Sundays. She's growing up! This now teenage girl just can't be the same little 3 year old girl all dressed up in a blue flowery outfit, that I took to see "Disney On Ice's Snow White". Tess used to call me her "cool aunt" because we always did fun things! Around when Tess was four, I started taking her and her older brother Jay to the local zoo about once a month. I remember on one of our "zoo adventures" Tess got upset because I wouldn't let her go pet the tiger she called "the big kitty". Around Tess's 7th birthday, my brother Mark and his wife Julie went on vacation, and I had Tess and Jay for a whole week. I worked for an airline, so flying was dirt cheap for me and anyone traveling with me. Well, I decided to take Tess and Jay to Disneyworld for the week! It was an awesome trip and to top it off, Tess got to have a special birthday lunch with Mickey and Minnie Mouse and a few of their friends! We were all in heaven! Every once in a while the phone rang, I'd pick it up and hear Tess's little voice on the other end asking me if I could "come over and play". I will never forget the tears rolling down Tess's cheeks when I moved away in Nov 2000, and I gave her my fish to take care of. Tess hugged me and cried "don't go!". Tess (then 9)was my "junior bride's maid" for my wedding in 2001. On my wedding day, after Tess got dressed we walked together through the halls of the hotel on our way to the hotel wedding chapel. All the way to the elevator, she excitedly told every passerby "I'm getting an uncle today!". She couldn't wait for me to put on my wedding dress, because her dress looked like a mini version of mine.
Because I moved about 2,000 miles away in 2000, we're not as close as we were. Tess and I do e-mail each other, but in my mind she is and always will be a "little girl". Today I learned that Tess offcially has her first boyfriend. It doesn't seem possible!! She's growing up! Where did my "little niece go?"