When I was home, I was thrilled to spend some time with my niece, Ceara. She’s nine years old and such a wonderful little girl.
She gave me a book of stories compiled by her class, and Ceara’s entry is this:-
THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON IN MY LIFE
The most important person in my life is my Aunt Niamh. She lives in New Zealand and she works as a story writer. Her dog is called Jed. Jed is trained. He does the washing up.
When my Aunt comes to visit, she always brings me a present, like when she brought me a skateboard. I had always wanted one. When it was my birthday she sent me a box full of jewellery. I made a necklace for her with a matching bracelet. She also sent me 10 pictures of Jed doing the dishes, it was really funny!
My Aunt Niamh is very kind and caring. She will be coming to visit soon. I think she’s coming in three weeks. I wish she was living closer. We would skype her sometimes. I hope someday I will be a writer like her.
This is totally shameful. I mean: I never write; I think I’ve Skyped her twice; the last birthday present I sent her was six months late; and I only brought her to MacDonald’s once and it was a crappy drive-through. If I’m the most important person in her life, it’s pretty grim.
Ceara came to the parents’ house in Kenmare for a weekend, and I drove to Cork to collect her. When I arrived the children had been released and were swarming around the playground. I accosted an adult and asked if she knew where I would find Ceara.
I knew she was a teacher because she said, “And you are . . . ?”
“I’m her aunt.”
“You’re not- are you Auntie Niamh?” she asked, her eyes widening.
“Um, yes,” I said, shifting Finn to my other hip.
“Auntie Niamh!” she shrieked. “Oh my goodness! Auntie Niamh! She talks about you all the time!”
She went to find Ceara and within seconds Finn and I were surrounded by children.
“It’s Auntie Niamh,” whispered one to another. “Ceara’s Auntie Niamh!”
“Do you have a dog called Ned?” one asked me.
“I have a dog called Jed. Will that do?”
From the far side of the yard I heard the Chinese whisper, ‘She has an iguana called Fred!’
“Does he do dishes?” asked another slyly.
“Yes,” I said definitively. “But I have to bribe him with dog biscuits.”
Ceara’s quite small for her age and it was a while before I noticed her hovering uncertainly at the edge of the throng, by now ten deep. After the way she talked me up, I thought I’d better make our reunion glorious.
“Ceara!” I cried, swatting kids out of the way. I considered lifting her off her feet and swinging her around, but I’d have dropped either her or Finn. In any case, I felt I’d already overdone it by roaring, ‘IT’S YOUR AUNTIE NIAMH HURRAY!’
Instead I grabbed her in a bearhug and cried, “Great to see you! Are you ready for a fully awesome road trip?”
“Can we have MacDonald’s?” asked Ceara, recognizing an opportunity when it bit her on the ear. Smart girl.
“We’ll stop at every single MacDonald’s on the way,” I promised.
(I was pretty safe; there’s only the one on the route from Ceara’s school to Kenmare: the crappy drive-through.)
We drove off in a blaze of glory with children lined up along the school fence waving and shouting, ‘Bye Ceara! Bye Auntie Niamh!’
I’ve resolved to make more of an effort with my niece.