For my second post of things that make me happy, I think I'm going to go with my babies. While I am not a biological parent, I am a parent to many children - all of whom respect me as parental figure, confidant, playmate, uncle, caregiver, healer of boo boos, calmer from nightmares, and on occasion - punching bag.
From the time these babies were born it was established that I was to fill all of these roles for life, because that was who we decided we were as a family collective, and a commitment I do not take lightly. After making the difficult decision to not have children of my own I knew that these magical little beings would be the closest I would ever come to having children of my own - and they ARE my children. Ask any one of them how they feel about me and they'll tell you countless stories and not even be able to remember the thousands of diaper changes before their memories of me began to form.
Jake, my sweet Jacob who is about to be 16 years old and is nearly half a foot taller than I am. Hilariously funny, fiercely independent, and still just as gentle mannered as he was at age 5 when he wanted nothing more than to sing John Prine's "Angel From Montgomery" with me from the backseat of the car as I drove him to school in the morning. He's gotten so grown so fast, and is really testing the waters to see what sort of shenanigans he can get away with. Like we all did. But he knows he can come to me still when he needs to, and will listen to me when I need to tell him the things he needs to know. This child is likely to do or be anything, I'm still waiting on him to inadvertently open the portal to another dimension in that cesspool of a bedroom he dwells in. Apparently I was the only 15 year old boy in history with a clean bedroom and a serious penchant for organization!
Cole, my baby boy, almost 12 and intrinsically the same child at heart he was when I only got to see him on Mondays when he was an infant, and his little face would light up the minute I walked into the room and picked him up. Then he'd promptly throw up all over me - but reflux surgery later took care of that problem. The same child who got deeply offended when I asked him if he thought I took good care of him, as if it were even up for debate or scrutiny. This one should be a defense attorney who does stand up comedy on the side. No, really - this kid has ALWAYS been a stitch. When he was little we called his sayings "Cole-oquialisms". Once I made him laugh so hard he peed a little, and thought it was the funniest thing ever. In his defense, he was only 6 years old. I tried to fill part of the Shane-sized hole left in his heart when his father and my best friend died in 2000, because I made that promise and because I just love and adore him so.
Haley, who is the oldest and is so beautiful it makes me ache. You know how there are people who smile and in turn you have to smile back at them because it's that kind of genuine likeability they exude? That's Haley. You just can't help it, she's that kind of a girl. I say girl, but she just turned 17 and it doesn't seem so long ago she was asking us to explain things like 'war'. It's really hard to accept that she's the same person who wanted nothing more than a Lion King fork & spoon plate and bowl set as a gift. Of course, she was a toddler and when asked what she wanted she replied "a Lion King fuckin' spoon!" I'll bet her friends STILL talk about the legendary Birthday-Slumber-Party of '03. Ah, good times...
Sara Claire. When she and Cole were babies together he couldn't say "baby", so he christened her "Bay" - and Bay she's been ever since. I call her Bay Claire. Too smart for her own good, acutely aware of everyone and everything, a multitalented quick study of all things musical and artistic, and desperately trying to be a grown up and forge her own identity. And all this before she could walk. Gentle, thoughtful, gregarious AND garrulous, just don't cross her. She's very forgiving, but you'll work your ass off for it, just as you should where that sort of thing is concerned. Uncommonly affectionnate and sticky sweet to boot, but I remember fondly carrying her exhausted little body upstairs for bedtime when she'd cling to me and bury her little sleepy face in my neck while holding her blanket. To this day we have no idea why she called that thing "Greep Geese", and she doesn't even remember it!
Avery - my teeny tiny baby girl! It was decided I would stay home and take care of her full time shortly after Maggie found out she was pregnant, and I was her 'manny' until she started school. First words, first complete sentence, first steps, a thousand just-because kisses, I was there for all of it. I even gave her her first piggy tails! She gave me fits to do it, and wouldn't sit still while it was happening (which explains why they're so unbalanced) but wanted them every day from that day on - and I was the only one she'd allow to do it. This baby was the first full-time parenting responsibility I was ever tasked with, and those five years are some of the most rewarding of my entire life.
Willow Annabella - or to me, "Belly", the youngest baby in the family. She loves her some Ubby, let me tell you. We bonded very early (from when she was still in the womb, I think) and even at a year & 1/2 she's got more personality than most adults I've met. As indications have shown thus far, I feel for us all when she becomes a hormonal preteen.
I adore and am madly, deeply, hopelessly in love with my children in case that were not evident.