The first few months of the year are packed with in-law birthdays. Usually my niece shares her birthday with my nephew, but he didn't come (thankfully, because we would have had to ask if he'd known the underwear bomber at school). So instead she shared her birthday with Ken, my father-in-law.
The day of the party we went to the mall to pick up a few more treats for Ken. I snuck away from Gary on a mission to Claires to get my right ear re-pierced. (Family loyalty led me there; my niece works for Claires. And there's Claires in Russia!)
I recall my first ear-pierce at 15, at Claires, 32 years ago. It was loud and alarming and violent, but not really painful, like having a air-driven hole-punch taken to your ear. This time was a non-event. (And no, I don't know why my ear closed. I've neglected both ears; they only get earrings about once a month.)
I followed my second ear-piercing with my first eyebrow threading, and I say: don't do it. It brought tears to my eyes. Like mechanized insects crawling on your brows yanking out each downy proto-hair ONE BY ONE. Imagine they apply eyebrow wax and the cotton to each hair so it's a thousand wax/cotton/rips that never stop crawling across your brow. Like a tiny Epilady. Not the modern one. The one from 20 years ago. Used slowly.
After the piercing and the threading I felt All Ready For Prom. I'm always glad to talk to my niece, and I knew she's just been through a heartbreak. In years past she's called during heartbreaks, but not this one. That's fine, because I know she's growing up, she can manage on her own. And since I'm clearly growing down, that Benjamin Button intersection was great for a while but inherently limited.
Gary got a chance to talk with her and hear of the heartbreak, and I overheard him say, "Well, this is your twentieth birthday, right? I met Ellen when she was twenty."
"Nineteen, just a few weeks shy," I corrected him, but I could hardly speak because MY GOD SHE IS TWENTY. In my head she is thirteen. No, to be fair, in the seven years since she's been thirteen she's grown into a very mature thirteen year old. That's how I see it, or saw it, until last night. I've entertained myself recently thinking "Mom was three years older than I am now when she retired" or "When I introduced Gary to Mom she was as old as I am now."
So, no wonder my niece has been coping on her own. WAH. TWENTY. She doesn't need me.