Yesterday (October 27th), my niece Alexis turned 8 years old. I called her up on the phone to wish her a happy birthday. She was having her party at the time, so she seemed a little distracted. That's understandable. If I had a bunch of friends over and was just about to open a bunch of presents, I'd find it hard to talk on the phone, too. Even today.
I remember the day Alexis was born. It was a Friday and I was in 8th grade. It was the opening night of my first-ever play (as Artie in a community theatre production of "Lost in Yonkers"). I was just heading to the theatre when my sister Anne went into labor. It wasn't until I got off the stage after the show and talked to my sister Amy and my grandma Joan that I found out Anne had a baby girl named Alexis. It was a really big, memorable night.
Those were weird times back then. Anne was a senior in high school and if having a baby at that time wasn't a taboo enough, it was at a small Catholic school, too. Of course, every kid had sex there, but a pregnancy was a rarity. I remember this awkward time (right when the rumors were circulating) when these older kids came up to me in the locker room and they were like, "Paul. I want to ask you something." And I'm like, "Uh, okay" (knowing full well that they wanted to ask about my sister). And then they said, "Ah, forget it." And everybody in the locker room snickered and exchanged knowing glances. That happened quite a few times. It made me feel helpless. It isolated me.
Of course, I can't complain too much. I'm sure it was 100 times tougher for Anne. But she was really strong and got through it. And she's doing very well for herself. I'm proud of her.
As can be expected, it was tough for the family, too. But in the end, Alexis brought us together. With a new child in our presence, it sort of forced everybody to "get their shit together." Because, you know, you want a new life to be surrounded by love. And not dysfunction.
I've always been extremely grateful to have Alexis around. Not only is she super-funny and cool, she's also given me the opportunity to know what it's like to be around little kids (since I was the youngest child). And getting to influence somebody positively and have them influence you with their innocence and grace is pretty great.
That's my niece Alexis. 8 years old.