This time last year my life changed forever. I could have never imaged 8,760 hours ago how much more love our family could receive. Today we celebrate Ally Victoria’s first birthday! Ally is my first biological niece. I have been completely obsessed and consumed with her since the minute she arrived into our lives. I could have never imagined how much someone was missing from our lives, until she arrived. I can’t imagine our family, our lives, the same without her in it.
Since the minute she was born her personality shined through. Just days after being born, while still at the hospital, I saw a smile cross her face. It doesn’t seem to be a usual happening for a baby who is only days old to smile. We thought it was gas, or a dream, or a muscle spasm of some sort. Now I know it was definitely a smile. Ally Victoria is always smiling, laughing and mimicking each of us. She’s always trying to get us to laugh or cracking herself up. I can’t imagine a happier little girl. She’s full of personality and definitely already has a sassy personality. Every minute I’ve had the opportunity to spend with her “babysitting”, every bottle I’ve made, every poopy diaper I’ve changed, every crazy night I’ve spent while she’s slept over numerous times, every night out I’ve missed, every date I’ve cancelled, has added to every memory we’ve shared.
I know the importance of having a wonderful aunt or uncle as an important role in your life because I’ve been blessed with both. Losing my aunt earlier this year has put that bond even more in perspective. Every minute I treated her less than perfect, every phone call I didn’t feel like answering, every half-had conversation because I was on the phone but busy doing something else – like watching TV or getting ready to head out, yet she still adored me. I now understand this love. It doesn’t take away from the sleepovers I had with her as a child, how she taught me to do my nails professionally, how to apply makeup, or the importance of perfume. How she taught me to love unconditionally, taught me about love – the tough parts and the happy parts. How she taught me to follow my dreams and my love interests, regardless of what anyone thought about it. How I could never do any wrong in her eyes, because her love was unconditional. I don’t have her around now to share moments with anymore, but she definitely left me with a legacy. A legacy that I want to be the same for Ally Victoria. A role I must fulfill.
My uncle has been the same. He’s been my rock throughout my life. Even in my 30s, I still call him for advice. He’s the one I turn to when I have a job offer, or when I’m following a path not everyone agrees with. He’s the one who understands and supports me, regardless if my ideas are smart or the stupidest thing I’ve ever thought of. He listens and he supports. He gives advice only when asked. In my eyes, he’s like a second father. I know I can turn to him for
anything I need. He makes me laugh as an adult and always did as a child. He taught me to be silly and let loose. He taught me the importance of dancing in the car and singing along with the radio full blast. He taught me to play tennis- or at least attempt to. He started that lesson on my 10th birthday and 20-something years later, he still hasn’t given up on me. We still go for a match every now and then, even though my game can barely be called a game with my less than striking talent. He reads every thing I write, and hung up my first magazine article when it was published. I remember getting to his house with a hard copy of the issue and he had a frame, specially made for magazines, bought and waiting to hang my first published piece in his house. He read my first published magazine cover to cover, as did my aunt, his wife. She’s been right by his side during our car dances, tennis matches as a child and an adult, and adventures to the airport to see the planes as a kid. I can still do no wrong, and get the “she was my first born and first love” excuse to this day. His kids complain all the time that I’m not his first child and why do I get special privileges, but he always defers back to them that I am his first child and his first love. Though I was born when he was just 16-
years old, I’m often told stories how he’d rush home from work to be able to give me my bottle, show up with random gifts for me at every visit, love to bathe me and dress me up and just hang out with me. That’s the same way I feel about Ally Victoria. I guess I’ll probably have my own children complaining to me someday that she’s not my first child, but I also feel like she is. He still rushes by my side the minute he hears I’ve had another car accident, lost a job, had a broken heart, am at the hospital or just feeling sick. He’s been there for every school play, graduation, sacrament, career success and recognition no matter how far he’s had to drive or early he’s had to leave work to be there supporting me. It’s automatic, I call my parents, and I call my uncle. He’s always there. I’ve noticed, and I’ve learned.
I get how my uncle and aunt were with me. I understand the unconditional love. I understand wanting to be the person she turns to for love, support and advice. I understand wanting to participate in every stage of her life. I understand wanting to rush by her side when she’s been sick or had to spend time at the hospital. I understand wanting to take her pain away and wanting to laugh with her in every silly thing she’s done. I’ve been blessed with great role models and have some huge shoes to fill, but as of 8,760 hours ago and the 365 days that we’ve spent together, I’ve been trying every minute. I already see how she looks for me. How she maneuvers herself to my bedroom door in her walker and just stays there saying my name, “Titi,” over and over until I wake up in the mornings. How she leaves anyone’s arms to come to me when she sees me. How she knows when I put our song on that we’re going to dance. How she recognizes the song I sing her to sleep. “When I see you smile, I can face the world, you know I can do anything,” is how I feel when I see her and how I hope she feels about me in the future when she’s afraid to stumble and fall. I want to be the person that encourages her, supports her, listens to her, loves her and catches her if she falls. She has great parents, but we all know that sometimes it’s easier to lean on others than going to your parents. I want to be her second choice.
A year ago I said I had a lot to tell her and I was going to write her a letter. I decided to wait until I got to know her a little more. Though she’s just turning one today and will be blowing out her first candle tonight, her personality has already shined through. I want to let her know today many things, but for now I’ll start with . . .
Ally Victoria, I want you to grow up to know how amazing you are. As you get older people will put you down, hurt you and break your heart. Always know that they don’t deserve you. People who act this way are jealous, insecure or immature.
Follow your dreams. We all have goals for you and ideas for you, yet nothing will make you happier than what’s in your heart. Whatever your career choice turns out to be, whoever your heart goes for, and wherever you want to be later in life, always go and be with and do what fills your heart.
Stand up for yourself. No one else will but you. Your parents, grandparents, myself and your cousins will always be there to back you up, to step in when you need us. But you have to learn to stand up for yourself, your beliefs and your morals. If not people will take advantage of you.
Enjoy life. Dance in the car, sing with the radio full blast, we can continue to have dance parties in the living room – continue to do these even as an adult. Sometimes you just have to let loose and be silly and put a smile on your face.
Be adventurous. Never be afraid. Continue to be the daring, adventurous girl you are showing to be already. Try new things, test the depths, test the edges, just do it carefully so you don’t get hurt. But don’t be afraid of life. The only way to enjoy it, is to live it.
Fall in love. Though I don’t want to think of you falling in love just yet, someday you will. Fall in love with the adventurous guy, fall in love with the nerdy guy, fall in love with the chivalrous guy, even fall in love with the bad boy. They will all teach you something about love, about life and most importantly about yourself. They’ll each help you get closer to your destination and you’ll have fun along the way.
Love carefully. Though falling in love is important and fun, ultimately fall in love with the one who fills your heart. It won’t matter if he’s rich or poor, if he’s smart, or not so smart, if he’s witty and funny, or boring and calm, as long as he fils your heart completely. Money will come and go, humor will fade, so will his looks, boring can change as do his interests, but if he makes you happy, if he treats you right, if he values your morals and standards, if he respects you and your family, if he gives you his undivided attention, and shows you the unconditional love you’ve grown to know, then he’s the right guy for you. No one else needs to be happy with him but yourself.
Respect your parents. They won’t always be right, though they’ll always think they are. You don’t always have to agree with them, but you do always have to respect them. They gave you life, helped you grow, will educate you, love you and always want the best for you. Even when you think they’re crazy, one day you’ll look back and realize why they were being so insane. It was to protect you, to help you grow, to teach you, and to show you how to be independent and strong.
The same goes for your grandparents. They’re an overprotective bunch. Trust me, your dad and I have some stories on them. As I’m sure mommy has on Mimi too. They’re hispanic, it’s in their genes to be crazy and over protective. But they love you. I’ve seen how much they each want the best for you. How you light up their lives when you are in the room with them and how they want to give you the world, even when they can’t. This won’t change. Your dad and I know first hand. Your the first granddaughter so you’ll get it tenfold. Enjoy the good, even with the fun craziness it comes with.
You have a huge family filled with lots of love. Lots of cousins, many “aunts” and “uncles” and lots of love to go around. There will always be someone there for you. Whether you need advice because you’re learning to cook, need tech help, need someone to go shopping with, to cry with, to hold your hand in a scary moment, to wipe your tears when something horrible happens, or someone to pull to the dance floor at a party. You have one to fill each role. There are so many people to love you. Right now your tiny cousins are there to play with, but one day they’ll be your best friends. They’ll be the ones you call at 4 a.m. because some guy broke your heart and they’ll answer and they’ll listen. They’ll be the ones to stand beside you when you say “I DO” someday, be there when you’re having your own kids, will probably the first ones to give you a drink and insist you experience life and dance. Trust them, they’ll never not have your back. Trust me, those crazy aunts and uncles I just mentioned, they’ve been those people to me growing up. Though they’ll be older and wiser by the time you are old enough to get to know them, they love you unconditionally as well and will always be there for support and to help you along the way when you need it. I’ve experienced this myself with my older cousins, who are “aunts” and “uncles” to me. Trust me, you’re a lucky little girl to call this insane, huge, in-your-business family your own too. They might be a nosy bunch, but they mean well because they love you and want the best for you.
As for me, I think you’re already realizing how much I love you. You already know how to have fun and enjoy the dance parties in the living room with me. You’re already sitting by my side as I do my makeup and hair. I want to teach you so many things as my aunt and uncle have taught me. I want to teach you to do your nails, to properly do your makeup, the importance of great perfume, how to love and how to handle a heartbreak, how to dance in the car, be silly, let lose and maybe I’ll even learn tennis well enough to teach it to you too. I want you to be able to turn to me for advice, support, love and be there for you as a friend. I promise to be there for you for every school play, graduation, career success, hospital stay, life event and even when you’re sick – no matter how far I have to drive or how early I have to leave work. Because that’s what I’ve learned from my aunt and uncle. I’ll dress as Santa for you every Christmas and when you’re older do it for you and your friends so you can get a laugh, because that’s what my aunt did for me. I’ll take you shopping and help you pick out outfits, because that’s what my aunt and even my uncle did for me (and yes, he’s even done it while I’ve been an adult too). I want you to trust me to tell me about your dates, to tell me about school, about the wrong choices you’ve made and the fun you had making them. I want you to turn to me when you think your parents are crazy, because I’ll understand you and know what their intentions are as well. That’s how my uncle
and aunt were for me growing up. They understood my complaints on my parents, but also helped me understand their point of view, no matter how ridiculous I thought they were at first. I want to be there for every milestone you have in life, just like they were for me. I want to watch you grow, as if you were my own, because that’s how my uncle and aunt treated me my entire life, like I was their child. Though I wasn’t biologically theirs and they didn’t live with me as their child, I saw no difference between me and their own kids. The love, support, and understanding was always the same. I promise to be like that with you, because just like my uncle still thinks I’m the first born, I think of you as my first born. You’re the first Arean to join our family and even when my kids arrive you will be a part of them and us, just like I’ve been to my uncle.
Ally Victoria, I hope you read this someday and that you understand it. 8,760 hours ago I experienced a love I never knew I could. I know when I have my own someday, I’ll be saying something similar, but for now I’m enjoying being an aunt. (They’ll be lucky too because I’ve gone through baby bootcamp with you and have learned so much myself). I’m enjoying watching you grow, “babysitting”, and helping out, because that’s what aunts are for. They’re there to be an extra set of hands, an extra set of ears to listen an extra heart to love and show you how to love. I pray for you daily and hope you continue to grow into a confident, sassy, spunky, fun, girl filled with personality who always makes people laugh, blows kisses, gives hugs and shows love. You’re only a year old and you’re already doing this, so I know that you’ll grow up to be the most perfect version of yourself you can be. I can’t wait to continue to be a part of your life, your milestones and someday your memories. We’ve already begun to make some. We’ve already taken you to our family vacation spot, taken you to the place that houses the “rocks” and the pier, but we’ll have to show you exactly how to enjoy them as you get a little older. We’ve already showed you how to dance and have fun and I know with this crazy family, you’ll no doubt continue to learn to love, enjoy life, trust, be adventurous and fearless, yet confident, sassy and classy.
HAPPY FIRST BIRTHDAY ALLY VICTORIA! YOU’VE CHANGED OUR LIVES FOR THE BEST!
You’ve filled us up with so much love and a year filled with amazing memories….