I have a niece. Clayton will soon have a niece or nephew and I’m pretty sure Elron’s already got a niece or nephew too. Maybe even both.
Steve’s got kids. A few of my friends have both kids and nieces/nephews, and some have dogs or cats that basically are their kids. But I don’t have any of those – kids, cats or dogs. I had two cats once but I’ll get to them later. Let’s get back to me having a niece. Because that’s a big deal.
Children are important to us for so many reasons and they make us better people in a lot of different ways, but I’m going to just look at one of those ways right now. Children remind us of important stuff. You might nod knowingly while drifting away on a soft fluffy cloud – lost in the thought of your niece/nephew/kid/pet’s giggling face – before returning your gaze to me, clasping your hands together and saying something like: ‘Innocence, yeah. (Sigh) Life is so … amazing, right?’ Well, yes it is. But I was actually going to say that they remind me of … well, me.
OK, not me exactly, but hanging out and playing with my nearly-three-year-old niece reminds me of things that are important to me. And to be honest there isn’t much that reminds me of that stuff too often because, like most people, I take a lot of shit for granted and tend to float along in a life of work, drinks, work drinks, dinners, work dinners, movies/TV and movies/TV about working/trying to escape work. Kids take you away from that world and put you in theirs and in it you can both have a pretty bloody marvellous time. It’s fucking weird, but marvellous. Kids change our lives.
Not every moment is a poignant one. We don’t sit there in the garden pretending to water plants and naming bricks in some crazy game they’ve made up and we’ve been playing for forty-five minutes and think to ourselves: ‘Y’know what … there’s more to my life than grinding out day after day with the same stuff. I have an imagination. I had plans – big plans. Wasn’t I going to shake up the world and become a great landscape architect or something? I had that incredible idea for the self-watering garden! I should spend more time in the backyard picking flowers and talking to the neighbour about what’s in season or maybe I should even grow some dope. Thanks niece/nephew/child.’ No. That doesn’t happen all the time. God, if only.
But I was reminded of something important while hanging with my niece recently. Oh, and Disney helped too. We were reading an e-book together and I got to turn the page on the iPad when she asked me to, which is actually harder than turning a real page – technology! The thing reads for you and there are games and songs and shit. It’s crazy. Anyway it was while listening to that song from Toy Story – you know the one about 'You've Got a Friend In Me'? Well, I must have heard this song about thirty or forty times during this reading session with my niece nodding along, clutching her Miffy toy tightly. Miffy, her friend. A toy. Just like in the story. Ohhhhhh.
This took me back (albeit not to my childhood but rather the period between fifteen and twenty-five) when I would hang out with my two cats and how I thought of them as friends, not pets. I’d come home from school or uni and everyone else would be out or at work having a great time or something so I’d say hello to one of the cats (whichever one was there to greet me – they probably took it in turns) and they’d meow back and I’d ask them how their day was and they’d meow back and I’d tell them how my day was and they’d sit there silent – listening, you see – and once I’d finished they’d blink and move off to the couch or kitchen or whatever. No doubt content in learning about my day and sharing theirs.
Now, without my niece and her friendship with Miffy (and Disney) I never would have had these memories overwhelming me and a single tear running down my cheek. I probably wouldn’t have said to myself: ‘Oh yeah. Friends. (Sigh) They come in all shapes, don’t they? And they’re not complete arse’oles all the time.’
Of course, I didn’t say this out loud in front of my niece. I waited til she’d gone off and started playing with her mum and dad or something. Or take a shit for them to clean up. I said it under my breath while I was all alone and figuring out how to turn the iPad off.