Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Five years ago today, my youngest niece came into the world with a tornado of shock and worry swirling around her. She was five weeks early and had to spend her first days on Earth in the neonatal intensive care unit. The sweet nurses at the hospital used heart-shaped patches on her cheeks to hold her little breathing tube in her nose.
Fighter that she was, she never seemed to show any signs of her prematurity.
She's sharp as a tack and has a sense of humor that constantly surprises us. When she was about a year and a half old, my brother (her dad) was lying on the couch watching TV and she came up behind him, tugged at the waistband of his shorts and threw three raisins into his underwear. That story alone earned her a place in my heart for all eternity.
The whole family was gathered to celebrate her big fifth birthday last night, when again she gave us a scare comparable to her unexpected birth. She had been chowing down on one of her pink princess cupcakes when my dad and I saw her leaning over a plate on the coffee table.
She was choking and I jumped up to whack her on the back, thinking something was just a little stuck. Not the case. As I began yelling for my brother—the fireman—to come help, my dad flew off the couch and grabbed her around the middle. He gave her a sharp squeeze and a ball of cake came flying out of her mouth.
My brother and sister-in-law rushed to her side, hugging her and giving her water. She cried for a second, then brushed her hair out of her eyes and asked, "Can I have another cupcake?"
I almost fell on the floor. My legs were Jell-O, my hands were shaking. My dad's eyes had been saucer-sized since the minute we saw her lean over the table. The laughter was a welcome release.
If anyone else in that room had choked on something, it would have taken us weeks to recover. The elder nieces would have wanted to stay home from school all week. The rest of us probably would have put ourselves on liquid diets.
But not the little peanut. She came into the world with a bang and now it seems nothing can rattle her.
Happy Birthday Panda Pie!