her favorite aunt

When we were kids, my sister Tracy and I didn’t always get along. She’s 5 1/2 years older than me, so she always treated me like a baby (which I suppose I was, to her). I went back and forth between desperately wanting to be included in all of the cool stuff she got to do with her friends, and being mad at her because she treated me like a baby.

Of course, we grew up, and things changed. I’m not sure exactly when, probably when we were both in our 20s. Now we’re pretty close and have an easy relationship with each other. Sure, sometimes we get pissy with each other, but it’s usually mild stuff that blows over within a minute or two (literally). I honestly can’t remember the last real fight that we had. I mean, I remember the time that I called her a bitch and it made her cry, but I think I was about 17 years old at the time. I can’t think of anything in the past decade.

And it particularly strikes me as odd, after spending the past weekend with my mom and her sisters. There are 7 kids in her family: 4 boys and 3 girls. And the brothers all seem to get along well with everyone; they’re the peacemakers in the family. But my mom and her two sisters… man. They have this competitive thing, this need to one-up the other and prove that I AM RIGHT AND YOU ARE WRONG WRONG WRONGITY-WRONG. They love each other, of course, but there’s a lot of sniping and eye-rolling going on too. And they’re all in their 60s now, so it’s not like that dynamic is ever going to change. So it’s strange to look at those relationships, and then see the relative ease that Tracy and I have with each other. It makes me grateful, to be honest.

Tracy doesn’t have any kids, and I’m pretty sure that if you asked her, she’d say that she’s happy that way. But when Catie was born, I think it made her second-guess that decision, even if it was just for a minute.

with her Aunt Tracy

It was hard when we lived in Seattle and we’d only see our family a couple of times a year, but Catie never went through a “stranger danger” fear with Tracy. It’s like she has always known that Tracy belongs to her.

bouncing in the bjorn

post-Christmas poop-out

When we moved from Seattle to North Carolina, my sister flew from NYC to Seattle, so that I wouldn’t have to attempt a cross-country flight by myself with an 18 month-old. That pretty much cemented her position as The Most Awesome Aunt Ever. (She even got to experience Catie’s motion sickness firsthand; and as a result of Catie’s epic backseat milk barf right as we were pulling in to the airport, I’m pretty sure Tracy’s name has been blacklisted from all Dollar Rental Car locations in the U.S.)

Catie practicing her "trust falls" with Tracy (whee!)

For us, moving to North Carolina was a little bit of a double-edged sword with our families. Sure, it meant that we got to see them more often, and that was great. Tracy was only a short 90-minute flight away in NYC. But it also meant that Catie’s tears were increasingly dramatic every time Tracy had to leave and go back home. It went from a few tears and sniffles and woeful moans of, “my Twaaacy!” from the backseat, to (at this last visit) a full-on screaming meltdown of “I GO WIF’ YOUUUUU!!!!” in which she tried to extricate herself from her carseat and almost made herself vomit from sobbing so much. It wasn’t a fun goodbye, to say the least.

SO happy to see her aunt Tracy

A few months ago, Tracy started talking about maybe moving to be even closer. The company she works for is international and has offices all over the place; after a little research, she found out that they have a branch office in Charlotte, which is only 150 miles from here (also, coincidentally, where my brother Chris lives). She asked about possibly relocating, and they said yes.

(Of course, in a perfect world, I’d prefer that she relocate to Raleigh. But her company doesn’t have an office here, and she doesn’t want to leave her job, which I understand. It’ll still be nice to be able to visit each other via car instead of airplane!)

I’ve been scared to blog about this for fear that it would fall through, but right now, as I type this, movers are loading up my sister’s NYC apartment. She is moving to Charlotte. Today.

I think Catie might like Tracy just a little bit

And I know one little girl who can’t wait to see her favorite aunt.

New Orleans trip, in photos

Our trip to New Orleans was so much fun, I don’t know where to start. I think I’ll let the pictures do the writing for me.

Catie in her princess dress that Mimi made
If you need a custom-made princess dress, it’s good to have a Mimi who knows how to sew. (Also included: silver sparkly headband-crown, which you can’t really see in this picture because of the light.)

Two of the nights that we were in town, we went to my cousin Ryan and his wife Theresa’s house, who generously hosted a dinner/family reunion/hanging-out-talking-for-hours thing. That was a lot of fun, since they have kids close to Catie’s age, so she had a fantastic time playing with her cousins (and their toys).

Brendan & C.C. smiling for the camera, while Catie's having a very animated phone conversation
This picture cracks me up. Brendan and C.C., two of Catie’s cousins, were happy to smile for my camera, but Catie is totally indifferent and is all, “Whatever, I’m gonna call somebody on this toy phone and have a very animated phone conversation complete with hand gestures.” And, um, I don’t know where she gets that whole talking-with-her-hands thing. *cough* I swear I don’t know anyone in my family who does that. *cough cough*

We were lucky to have gorgeous weather all weekend. On Saturday, a bunch of us went to City Park, which I was hoping to get to take Catie to see.

Oak trees lining City Park
I love the old oak trees in City Park. My aunt Michele said that the oak trees are almost like people, they’re such a part of New Orleans’ identity. I can kind of see what she means. Those oak trees hold a piece of my heart like almost no other part of the city.

The last time I was in New Orleans (June 2006), it was almost a year after Hurricane Katrina, and the train ride around City Park was still destroyed. I was six weeks pregnant with Catie at the time, and I started to cry because I always had this vision of someday taking my kids on the train that I had ridden on when I was little.

In the last few years, they’ve rebuilt City Park to even better than before. Not only is the train ride back, and the carousel has been restored, there’s a small amusement park there as well. It was fantastic.

Catie & me on the carousel

Catie "driving"

Finally, we got on the train.

family train ride!
All aboard!

I’ll be honest, I almost cried. It was so cool to finally get to take Catie on that train, which four years ago, I thought might never happen.

I took a few dozen pictures from the train. Most of them were crap. Then I happened to snap this one, which I didn’t even know was good until I saw it on my computer later.

One of the biggest & oldest oak trees I've ever seen

I want to have it enlarged and framed. I love it that much. And I’m not trying to toot my own horn as a photographer, this one was just a really happy accident. It was taken from a moving train, it’s not like I had time to compose the shot.

On Sunday, we went to the French Quarter.

St. Louis Cathedral
Catie recognized St. Louis Cathedral as “the castle from Princess & the Frog.” I tried to explain that it was a church, not a castle, but… eh. It has spires. I can see how she’d be confused.

The Wilkinsons on Wilkinson Street!
Hey look, it’s the Wilkinsons on Wilkinson Street!

Catie & Mimi share a moment by the Mighty Mississippi
I love this picture of Catie and my mom, the way their heads are tilted toward each other. They have such a great relationship, I love watching them interact.

Flying home yesterday was exhausting, as air travel always is, with or without a toddler. But we’re home, and we’re getting back to normal everyday life now. As nice as it is to be home, though, I am already missing New Orleans. I love that city so much.