Monday, March 9, 2009

Spring Break

It's Spring Break and the young ones have descended on our home. Our two nieces, one a senior, one a freshman, both of them in college upstate, arrived Friday night. So did my son's best friend, who's been a regular in our house since he was four, who's now at a boarding school in Connecticut. The mood in the living room was festive, even though my daughter, still recovering from her three-day illness, crawled in between her dad and me by ten p.m., a new fever raging, her head aching, her body wracked with chills.

In the living room, the young ones kept going till past midnight, talking and laughing and regaling my son and his best friend with stories about what their lives will be like when they get to college. In my room, I see-sawed between smiling contentment at the sounds coming from our living room, and clutching worry that maybe my girl was sicker than I had thought.

Saturday morning, one niece (the senior) left early for the airport, on her way home to Antigua for the week. My son and my other niece (the freshman) were sprawled on two couches in the living room, wrapped in blankets, unconscious to light or sound. I padded to the back room to check on my daughter, who we'd marched to her own bed around two a.m. The fever had broken. She was cool and clammy and sleeping peacefully. My heart swelled with relief.

By noon, my daughter was at the hair salon with her cousin, being washed and deep-conditioned and blow dried, getting ready for her friend's birthday dinner that evening. One of my niece's college friends, unable to wait till she was done with the hair salon, joined her there, and waited for her and my daughter, then trailed them home. In our kitchen, my niece checked Fandango.com on her red laptop to see where the movies were. They decided on Confessions of a Shopaholic, dinner first at Toast, then a cool stroll down Broadway to the theater. The rest of us headed out, too. My husband, son and his best friend went to see Watchmen, while I went to dinner with my friend, Leslie, girls' night out. By ten p.m. everyone was back home, and the impromptu house party started all over again.

On Sunday, two more of my niece's friends arrived in town, and in our living room. My husband made dinner for everyone, portobello mushroom parmesan and baked potatoes. My daughter, buried under a mountain of homework that she missed due to sickness, took a break and made key lime cupcakes. They sat in all their extravagant deliciousness in their fan-paper cups on the counter, picked off one by one by ravenous young people (and my husband and me).

My niece, the freshman, grew up in Jamaica. Her closest friends, the ones who spent Sunday in our living room, making my son's evening (although he was chill and chatty and careful not to be too ga-ga), are from various parts of the world: Taiwan, Puerto Rico, Australia. At a certain point it struck me that they were one Black, one White, one Yellow, one Brown, all the colors of Benetton. Beautiful, every last one of them.

My niece, who seems about 12 years old until you look into her eyes, appears to be the leader. They cluster around her, look to her to decide what they'll do today. This is the niece who spent every August in our home, who is like a sibling to my children. This is my brother's first child. It makes me happy to see her in action. Lively, funny, assertive, kind. Playful as ever with her cousins. Protective of her friends. Easygoing with her aunt and uncle. But when did she get so confident and grown?

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