One year ago today my darlingest niece Evangeline made her grand entrance into the world. Before she arrived, I thought about what it would be like to be an aunt. I imagined a sweet, gentle love for someone who was now a member of our small family of 5. I had no idea. The first time I saw Evie, my soul shook with a brand new emotion. My older brother, and only sibling, stood beside me as we looked through the hospital glass. I found myself glancing back and forth, from Michael to Evie, from Evie to Michael. She was his daughter! This fully formed, fully alive tiny person, once invisible was now here with us. Her beautiful and brave mother had worked tirelessly to bring her safely to us. And, just like that, here she was! 10 fingers, 10 toes, and a full, floppy, jet black, soft as a rabbit, head of hair. And, to my surprise, my love for her was anything but gentle. It was fierce. It ached as it ran through my body. It swam up to my eyes and rained down my cheeks. I've never felt love like I've felt for my niece. It is giving without a thought of receiving back. It is treasuring like another second and it might all be over. It is hopeful in the face of life's bitter heartaches. True, powerful, unabashed, silly, giddy, dancing, squealing love. This is the love I have for you, Evie.

Yesterday, I made the same trek I did a year ago to Indiana, Pennsylvania. Only this time it was bittersweet. Next month I won't be spending the Fourth of July in Pennsylvania like I typically do. Next visit they make to Grandma and Grandpa's house in Maryland, I won't be living in the room across from theirs. Next hug I get from my niece, she'll be walking. In just a few weeks I'll be packing up my car and my cat and moving a thousand miles away to Minnesota. I'm ready, I know that. But that doesn't make the goodbyes sting any less. I love that dear town in Pennsylvania. It's where I made some of the sweetest memories growing up. It's where Michael met Jocelyn and fell in love. It's also where I met my sweet Stefan. It will always hold a special place in my heart. So, it only seemed fitting that I take a few last photos of my brother, Jocelyn, and Evie on the steps of Jocelyn's parents' house in that sweet town. I love you three. Come visit me soon!

You are my precious niece, Evie, now and always. Happy 1st birthday! Let's be friends forever. 

Love, Aunt Lydia