Over the weekend, I spent a wonderful day with my oldest niece, Riley. She is one of the brightest stars in my night sky. There is nothing I would not do for her or my youngest niece, Taylor (another bright star in my sky).
Riley is 13 going on mature levels that most adults I know never reach. She is smart, funny, and stunning.
I haven’t had a day of just the two of us in a long while so I was pretty excited that I could take her to her first Xavier Rudd show in Asheville and that her mom and dad let her go with me even though she was grounded.
We have always had a connection of music. She loves it as much as I do and her taste often varies with the influences of her parents and friends. When she went into her hip-hop-rap phase, I didn’t judge, I just supported her, but she’s given that phase up now and has returned to rock-n-roll. She said she will always be a rock girl who listens to everything like I do. Yep, my heart smiled.
As we talked about school, she said she’s really excited that in science they’re studying space right now and that she wants to be an astronomer and study the stars. She said I was the reason she wanted to do it. She said that me sitting with her one night in the middle of the yard armed with a blanket, a flashlight, and a laptop with star charts made her fall in love with the night sky. I couldn’t be more proud of her. As we drove, we talked about stars, constellations, planets, and so on. I told her I’d give her my “Astronomy for Dummies” book which helped me learn a lot as an arm chair astronomy geek and that it would help her too.
I really loved introducing to her the music of another world. She may have never heard of Yeshe before we went to the show, but during the show I asked her what she thought and she said it was very interesting listening to an instrument that wasn’t a guitar. He played a mbira and a kamele ngoni and the sounds were so beautiful to me, and to her, it was awe in seeing something she wasn’t use to seeing. She also liked that he sang in English, French, and African. World music to her will never be seen as strange and weird, but as something that could open the doors to possibility. As she listened to Xavier Rudd in the car, she said she liked his voice but didn’t quite understand what he was saying. After the show, she asked if she could have all the music on her iPod because she really liked him. When I pointed out how he had to play the didgeridoo, she said she felt an asthma attack coming on. I said I would her take to Australia soon so she could see it played by the Aborigines and in a culture that truly appreciates the beautiful sounds of the instruments.
We talked of her fear of flying and her fears of talking in public. Her what if insert-something-terrible was answered by my what if insert-something-absurd-and-ridiculous. I asked her if she saw that by worrying about something that may or may not happen made her live a life of less when she should be living a life of more. Especially if she wanted to travel and see the world. She said she did and would work on her fears.
I know I won’t always be around to guide Riley and give her advice, but I will always hope that she looks back on moments in her life and sees a positive influence from me. I have never told her she couldn’t do anything and that she couldn’t dream of anything. The Universe is too big and too unexplored for us to believe in I can’t and I shouldn’t. I hope she will get to see everything that the Universe has to offer and even explore the boundaries of her fears and then kick them in the ass.
Riley’s response. I am so blessed to have this human in my life.
Categories: Letters to My Nieces