when you drop your niece off at her friend’s party at that seedy skating rink in the sketchy part of town. You hang out as she swaps her shoes for ones with little wheels, you clutch your purse and hold onto the sweater she carried in case she got cold. You stand awkwardly in the corner as she greets her friends with wide smiles and wild hugs, laughs big and forgets you’re even in the same space. You follow her as she clings to the half-wall barriers between the tiled floor and the smooth concrete one, occasionally letting go to hold a random hand or fall on a friend’s shoulder. You remember the phone with its camera in your handbag and you take it out to try and capture her clumsiness or an awkward stance that you can both laugh at later. Instead, though, you capture THIS:And in one still frame, you realize, for the first time, how much she’s grown, and that her aging has been fleeting. You realize that the tumultuous first part of her life when she attended as many schools as the number of years she’s lived and probably moved around the country or a city just as much, has largely ended. You notice how socially lithe she is these days and how, with all growing teens, she has likely started prioritizing friendships over familial relationships. You step away from the barrier and out of the black lights over the large rink. You marvel at what security and consistency provides for a young life that you love. You briefly wish you could have offered it to others in your life before forgiving yourself quickly, beckoning your niece over for a kiss on her cheek, and letting her know that you will be right there whenever she is ready to leave. You hope she understands how loaded your valediction is.
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