Alex is my 2 year old nephew. He is also the reason I went to Ethiopia, more or less.
I’d been a teacher in Baltimore for about 5 years when I found out that he was going to be born. This wasn’t exactly surprising news; my sister and her husband had always mentioned the possibility of having a third child, and my sister was a bit weirded out by the strangers who congratulated her on having a boy and a girl already as if she had achieved the motherhood goal of a complete set. But we were a bit surprised that this child was due to arrive shortly after my brother-in-law deployed to Afghanistan again.
So that left my sister ‘stranded’ in another state with no family closer than a 6 hour drive and three children aged 3 and under. That sounded…like a handful. My mother (‘Granny’) was happy to be there when the baby was born and help out, but deployments last for months. So what could we do?
Happily, my sister agreed to let me move in with her and her kids for a couple of months in the fall. I’d help keep her sane, drive the 3 year old to preschool, help paint the house, provide adult conversation, eat her food, etc. It was a great chance to spend some quality time together, and of course I got to know my niece and nephews much better. Only problem? I couldn’t exactly hold down a teaching job in Baltimore while doing this, and her husband was due back in Feb., so I couldn’t move in with them for the whole school year, either. Obvious solution?
Go teach in Africa. Cause that’s a logical next step. [Countries like Tanzania start the school year in January….but Ethiopia doesn’t. Oops!] Well, I'd always wanted to work in Africa anyway, so this was my chance.
Alexander (the Great) arrived during a hurricane. Of course he did; because not only was he born while his daddy was half-way around the world, he had to be born in a hospital where the power went out. No, Granny *isn’t* going to come pick you up at the hospital yet, because it’s dark and there’s trees and wires down and base isn’t open to civilians yet. He proceeded to be one of the easiest babies to watch. He… almost *never* cried. Seriously, I lived in that house for months, and there were a couple of crazy little kids there, but *not* a crying baby. (He cried during Black Dahlia, but who can blame him?) He was super wiggly, though, so a mild challenge to hold on to. A very happy little guy.
Christmas morning 2011:
And so after saying goodbye to everyone at Christmas, I got on a plane and went to Ethiopia. My brother-in-law came back a month later, and somehow my sister survived on her own during that time. I was able to see them all that summer, and so I celebrated Alex’s first birthday by going to the Maryland Renaissance Festival with my sister’s family. It was great fun – I helped make a pirate costume for my other nephew, and he loved it! But we should have remembered…the kid who was born in a hurricane brought the tropical storm with him and we were drenched in a downpour and the jousting was cancelled. But we still had cupcakes, and no one froze to death on the car ride home.
He was quite terrified during this pony ride I foisted on him….
But he was his usual happy self later!
And then I went back to Ethiopia and he moved to Spain.
Wait, what? Yeah, military family…they live in Spain now. So on my way home from Ethiopia, I had to visit my niece and nephews and sister and brother-in-law, of course!
Almost-two-year-old Alex was a bit different from one year old and 4 month old Alex, of course. He’s learning to talk now – in both English and Spanish! He says ‘Hola’ and ‘adio’ and ‘caballo’ (he can’t say ‘horse’ yet). Like the others did, he calls me aunt ‘Re. He’s still a very happy guy. He has a reset button – any time he was upset, I just held him upside down and like magic, he was laughing when I put him down. He’ll eat anything others are eating, and can put away 3 strips of bacon at breakfast without even blinking. He’s a good helper, picking up his toys as soon as his mom asked (unlike the older ones!) and even cleaning the microwave. He enjoys brewing tea, but it came out a bit weak because he got bored with dunking it eventually. He likes the Imperial March, but was terrified of Darth Vader the first time he saw him. He’s become desensitized and likes him better now. He’s difficult to direct in theater productions, losing props and failing to heed directions. [Then again, toddler Swan Lake might have been a *bit* ambitious on my part!] He loves going in the water at the beach and will run away from the waves. And his favorite blanket is the one I made for his sister before she was born.
So happy 2nd birthday, Alex! I don’t have a gift for you, and I doubt it will storm where you are this time. You’ll likely be nearly 3 by the next time I see you in person. Hopefully, you’ll be better at talking and making tea by then. But I guess I’ll get to learn all over again what you’re like. Until next summer!
(To see the photos, you might need to be my friend or my sister’s friend on facebook. Sorry about that! Just trust he’s adorable and cute.)