One year gone - next always faster than the last
THE RILKOFF FILESMATT RILKOFF
The Rilkoff Files
O ne year. Just like that it has passed and just like that it is the past. I have been an uncle for 365 days now, a godfather too. My niece has her first birthday today. She doesn't even know it.
Unlike a lot of people in her life I am well aware of the likelihood my niece is not the smartest and cutest baby the world has ever seen.
Not knowing her well enough yet I can't really comment on her cleverness but on her cuteness I have to be honest - I've seen cuter: Arctic fox babies, lop- eared bunny babies, poodle babies etc.
One year. Already. The next always faster than the last.
It's been a big year for my niece, an important year too. She has experienced so many new things you would be a fool to try and count. She's got her first tooth, eaten her first avocado, made her first friend, felt her first earthquake and taken her first crawl. For me the year was just the same number of days as hers and I was awake hundreds of hours more than her. But I seemed to get a lot less done.
My year comprised a new bathroom and kitchen, a rain-ruined holiday in the Coromandel and a demoralising tax bill for money I earned well before Harriet even existed.
"Did people earn money back then," I imagine her asking one day in the future.
"Of course they didn't," I will say to confirm her suspicion nothing existed before she did.
"I was just making that bit up."
I wouldn't want to turn back my clock entirely but there are times when I would appreciate the simplicity of that first year. Your worries are few and those that do keep you awake are easily banished when mum arrives. The tax department, work politics, family arguments, mortgage payments, grossly obese inherited cats and all manner of other problems simply do not exist. Life is one sweet ride.
Even though she doesn't know what today is yet as her uncle I have a responsibility to mark it with a gift to demonstrate I am part of her life. Unfortunately, in the weekend before this one I was staying in Cambridge which is to baby presents what hell is to snowballs. After perusing the bookshop and nixing the Peter Rabbit collection as utterly boring I even tried the farmers' market but it was all ridiculously named breads, over-priced pickles and people wearing gumboots they'd bought at a high-end shoe store.
It was hopeless and it was made worse by the certain knowledge my brother wouldn't have left his present buying until the last minute. So I was particularly despondent when some pimply teenager asked if I wanted to buy a raffle ticket from the Cambridge Scouts.
"Can't you see I am going to be this year's dud uncle," I wanted to tell him. "The sort of uncle who forces the parents to remind their kids about the value of thought and how much it counts."
There is truth in that for sure, though it is an odd man who wants to be responsible for a birthday lesson which is why I would like to thank the good folk at Kitchy Koo in New Plymouth. Recommended to me by someone who seemed to know a lot about pleasing children I felt its saving embrace as soon as I walked in. Teddies, dresses, puzzles, horses on sticks and things that hung above cribs - it was a treasure trove of thoughtful and interesting gifts and 15 minutes later I walked out with two: a doll that may or may not have been a goat and a puzzle. I could have got a lot more.
One year. Amazing. It seems like just the other day I was holding my blanket-swaddled niece to my chest and wondering how I could bottle the smell emanating from the top of her head.
"You could make money out of this," I had thought to myself, knowing that sharing such a musing might not be the best idea.
I'm not sure what her head smells like now she's grown up a year, a year she won't even remember and so, as I moulded meat into balls on Wednesday night, I tried to think of things to remember for her. Things that mattered.
I dismissed John Key's divisive asset sales, threw out the Kim Dotcom irritation, the war in Syria, the London Olympics and the increasingly annoying global financial crisis. I'm sure she wouldn't care about the Queen's diamond jubilee or the release of quad-core smart phones or the majestic emptiness of Barack Obama's speeches. It had to be things that made a difference, things that really told her something about the world she was born into.
Like the egg-anxiety a man develops when chickens stop laying for three months, or the ongoing concerns I had about the welfare of Arthur, the cat her mother had fraudulently imposed on the family or that one brief moment I sniffed her head and had an idea.
One year already. One sweet ride.
- © Fairfax NZ News