A December Birth


He arrived right on time, his delivery having been scheduled months before for the morning of 20 December.  Shortly before his birth, my sister graciously allowed me to place a stethoscope on her stomach, and I can still recall the beautiful sound of his heartbeat, like waves crashing on the shore.  Soon thereafter, mom, dad, and baby returned from the operating room, and I was lucky enough to hold him in the first hour of his precious life.

Through the years, he dunked cookies in my coffee until a smooth layer of sludge coated the bottom of the mug, drank from my Big Gulp cup that was only slightly smaller than him, and ate off of my plate as much as from his own.  Every moment together was magic, and my stomach turned flip-flops with excitement whenever I drove across town to see “my baby”.  We played with blocks, built Legos, zoomed cars, read books, worked puzzles, clicked through Dr. Seuss’s ABCs, blew soap bubbles, and sang songs.

And we laughed.  We laughed sliding Beanie Babies down the banister, tossing a miniature football, watching Disney movies, splashing in the pool, and eating ice cream. His father once said that if he heard his son laughing, it meant that Aunt Julie was nearby.  It is the finest compliment I have ever received.

My dear nephew is a couple of weeks shy of his 19th birthday and finishing his first semester of college.  Loving him for almost two decades has softened my heart and given purpose to my life.  I cherish being his aunt and am grateful that we remain close as he grows into adulthood.

Last week we spent Thanksgiving together.  It was a major laugh fest.


Have You Heard?


Many of us of a certain age are familiar with the admonition, “You deserve a good talking to!”  Recently I saw the quote turned on its head:  “You need a good listening to,” and it’s wisdom and truth made me wish I had thought of it.

As  a trained counselor, I understand the value of listening and the dear price some people pay to licensed professionals in order to be heard.  Discussing abuse, post-traumatic stress, or other extreme life issues is often impossible outside of a confidential therapeutic environment.  Indeed, some life circumstances are so complicated as to require the services of a therapist in order for long-lasting healing and personal growth to occur.

But what about the usual ups and downs that mark every-day life, the concerns about jobs, families, health, and friendships.  We need and want to share them (other than on Facebook), yet where do we turn in order to be listened to in a meaningful way?  Isn’t that part of our obligation to each other as fellow human beings?  Our desire to be heard transcends every outward characteristic or inner belief that might seem to separate us.  I believe it is something we all want and sometimes desperately need, and it might be the most precious gift we can offer one another.

As Christmas approaches, and we wring our hands worrying about buying the ideal present, maybe the best we have to give is already in our grasp.

“You need a good listening to!”  Yes we do.