It’s almost the end of September, and that means it’s almost the end of what I’ve gotten a habit of calling “Birthday Month.” (No, it wasn’t my birthday this month; that was last month.) As I’ve mentioned previously, the birthdays of 3 of my 4 nieces, as well as that of one of my sisters, fall in the month of September. About my nieces, the sister whose birthday is in September and is mother to two of the September birthday girls let me know at the beginning of the month that she wasn’t planning any birthday parties for her daughters that involved bringing the family together (i.e. the aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc.). So, being duty bound as an uncle, I sent a birthday card and $20 in piggy bank money to each of my nieces.
Well, it seems that my sister’s mind can change like the weather, as it did not only once this month…
… but twice…
Yep, on two separate occasions this month, my sister gave me well less than 24 hours notice that, “Oh, hey, we’re going to have a little party for [insert niece’s name here], and we’re inviting everyone, you can come up if you’re interested, and we understand if you already have plans.” Well, when my sister says that, what she really means is, “If you don’t indeed have any plans, you better get your [insert vulgar term for derriere here] up here and be with your nieces.”
Well, sis doesn’t have to lay the guilt trip on me (intended or otherwise) because I would drop nearly everything if an opportunity to spend time with any of my nieces ever arises. So, even though I dread long trips and having to 220 miles round trip on the car twice, I made two afternoon trips to my sister’s house for my nieces’ birthday parties, once on Labor Day and again this past Sunday afternoon. After arriving yesterday, I came to an obvious realization: When my sister’s family has company coming over, she really wants her house to be clean. Which is understandable, since she wants her house to leave a good impression on everyone. But if her husband and daughters aren’t able to help or are slow on the ball, that’s when she gets really ornery. So, after I arrived mid-afternoon (after a 2-hour drive from Madison, mind you), sis deputized me into cleaning house, having me wipe down the kitchen counters, tables, and basement bar, as well as move some stuff to her office. Her husband and daughters, after they finally awoke from their naps, were charged with their own tasks (the girls helped us out in the kitchen; hubby vacuumed the place, which is something I’ve never seen him do).
With their house relatively clean, sis and her hubby had another task to do: Figure out how many guests were coming, which meant how many bratwursts and hamburgers should go on the grill… as well as how much potato salad and macaroni and broccoli salad needed to be made… not to mention how much tortilla chips and Worcestershire sauce they needed. And when they realized they were short on the tortilla chips and Worcestershire sauce, guess who they asked to pick up some more? Yep, me, who, being the dutiful uncle and brother and brother-in-law that I am, I made the trip to the grocery store in town to pick up more chips and another bottle of that stuff I still can’t pronounce. (“Wor-ches-ter-shire?” No, that’s not right.) At least it was just a 1-mile trip into town. *LOL*
While I was at my sister’s house for my nieces birthdays, I also noticed something glaringly obvious about the men in my family: They like to shoot the breeze. A lot. And they’ll find any reason to belly up to the bar, have a beer or two, and shoot the breeze. Case in point, my youngest niece’s birthday party on Labor Day. My brother-in-law, his father, one of his uncles, and a brother (or so I want to think, as I’m not sure who’s who in my brother-in-law’s family) were charged with moving a table and chairs downstairs. That’s all they needed to do, and it didn’t need very much effort. So, what did they do when they finished their task? Right! They bellied up to the bar, had a beer, and started to shoot the breeze. Which did not please sis very much; she wasn’t done with having them do something. (Ugh. Men.)
One thing the men in our family tend to shoot the breeze about is football… specifically Green Bay Packers football, a natural topic with this being Wisconsin and the Packers being almost literally in our backyard. The good thing about my nieces’ birthday get-togethers this year is that neither of them conflicted with a Packers game, including my 13-year-old niece’s party yesterday (the Packers are playing a Monday night game as I write this). So even though there was still football on the TV in the background, everyone paid attention to my niece opening her presents and blowing out the candles on her cake. That wasn’t the case 11 years ago, when she had her 2nd birthday party. I videotaped her opening her presents in the living room that day, but you hear more of the Packers/Colts game playing in the background than you could hear her squealing with glee over her new gifts… save, perhaps, the men who paid too much attention to the game. (Again: Ugh. Men.)
But despite men in our family being men… and despite my sister wanting everything perfect… and despite my feeling ornery and tired myself when I got home late after another 2-hour drive back home, the most important thing is, of course, my nieces. They are now both another year older, and we are all proud of the bright, gifted, and talented girls they are. As their uncle, I like to think of myself as the most proud of all; yes, I’m biased when I say that, but I am really proud that all 4 of my nieces are turning out so well, and that I’m still part of their lives despite not getting to see them every day. The only sad part about it all is that we wish they could stay little girls just a little bit longer. (*sigh*) So, if you have little girls in your life, take time to love and appreciate them, for they’ll become big before you know it.