Nieces and nephews are great, aren’t they? You get all the fun and none of the responsibility. I have five—four nephews and one niece—and never once have I changed a diaper. It’s a great gig.
Jonathan was my introduction to aunthood. He’s 36 now, with an ironic goatee and a trucker hat that says “Jesus is my homeboy.”
He’s a sweetheart.
He and Katie have fraternal twins, Bette and Beau, and another son, Byrd. They all live happily in a lakeside cottage with three bedrooms and one bathroom the size of a telephone booth.
Two people can’t squeeze in at the same time. I have no idea how they bathe their kids—yell instructions from the hallway, maybe?
Jon really knows how to dad. He hugs and kisses his gang every chance he gets. He’s also a passionate gamer and movie buff. Once he texted me this: “I think I just went blind.”
Me: “You’re watching the hot tub scene in ‘About Schmidt,’ aren’t you?”
Jon: “Wow, it’s like we’re the same person!”
Jon’s brother Mikey will graduate in December from N.C. State with a degree in computer science. Apparently, he’s a whiz at developing software. He’s worked his way through college, and after graduation will join a Boston tech firm at a salary that made me so giddy, I had to lie down. He’s also funny, generous and drama-free. My brother Bubba and his wife raise good kids.
Ezra is my sister Moonbeam’s son. I asked her if he was named for the poet or the prophet and she replied, “Both.” His name means “help” in Hebrew.
Ezra grew up in northern California and now produces movies in L.A. We don’t know each other like we should, and I regret that. But Moonbeam sends photos every Christmas, and that kid is one handsome ginger. He looks like Prince Harry with better teeth.
(Note: Not a single member of my family, save one, has ever asked if I’d have kids. The exception is my other brother, T-Bob. He called me on my 40th birthday and said, “Hello. You’re really not going to have children?”
I hung up. He later sent a lovely plant, and all was forgiven.)
T-Bob and his wife, Tatiana, have teenagers — Sasha and Ana. Forgive my brag, but these kids speak three languages, play soccer and tennis and make top grades. They also iron their own clothes, which impresses me more than anything.
This summer Sasha visited his grandparents in Russia, which he does every year. But something went wrong when he tried to fly home. He showed the gate agent his boarding pass, both his passports, his “unaccompanied minor” paperwork, his birth certificate and a sheaf of other documents. Nyet, no fly.
Sasha called T-Bob, who contacted the State Department, the American embassy, the Volgograd airport authority and any other official he could think of.
“My son has been making this trip for years,” he said. “Help me get him home.”
There was no quick fix. A flurry of notarized documents in English and Russian were sent to a half-dozen bureaucrats. T-Bob was tearing his hair out.
He finally resolved the red tape, but had to purchase another return ticket. After three long weeks, Sasha returned, very tired and very happy to be back in America.
T-Bob texted me a photo of the reunion, then called. “This has cost me a fortune and aged me 20 years,” he said.
“You’re the one who wanted kids,” I replied. He hung up.
I should send a plant.
Julie R. Smith, who’s never been to Russia, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.