A House Full of Girls

My brother is out of town for a week so I am watching his two youngest – my 14 and 16-year-old nieces. Needless to say there’s a lot of extra estrogen in a household already stuffed to the rafters with tweenage and midlife hormonal mood swings. I’m not quite sure Dave and Chandler will survive.

Monday we went en masse to Target on our way home from a Labor Day trip to the beach to get school supplies. The 14-year-old needed tampons.

“Should we get them later?” asked Marley, mortified at the thought of her dad or her brother knowing that one of them was being visited by her monthly friend. (Sorry to break this to you Marley, but it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out what’s going on with one quick glance at the fuller-than-usual bathroom trash.)

My niece just shrugged and said, “That’s okay.” Her mom died one month and one day after her eleventh birthday. She’s never had the luxury of being discrete about her cycle when it comes to members of the opposite sex inside her household. At least she has two sisters. And two grandmas. And more aunties than she can count. But of course that’s not the same.

I turned the cart toward the feminine hygiene section. Chandler followed us in. “You really want to come in here?” I asked him.

“Why?” he said and then looked at the items on the shelf. Without another word and speed usually reserved for a track meet, he did a 180 and bolted to the safety of the main aisle.

Once we got home we worked out shower schedules and tried to find the best place to put the massive amount of clothing the girls brought for the week. I wonder if they were confused and thought they were moving in for good. (Not that I am in any position -EVER- to judge about having too much clothes!)

I leaned against Marley’s doorway and watched them all in her room – two on the bed, one on the floor. Marley’s in girl heaven. Her cousins -a high school senior and freshman- hanging out and talking boys, make-up and Instagram. I wish their mom could see them. She’s missing it all – middle school, high school, braces off, first boyfriends, periods, braces on.

Or maybe she’s not.

Maybe she really is watching over all of us. I like to think so. I hope so. I even feel it sometimes. In my bones. But who really knows.

After showers and dinner we banished the boys and snuggled on the couches to watch the season premiere of Switched at Birth. Marley and I have been anxiously awaiting its return. It’s our favorite show to watch, just the two of us. (Though girl cousins are always welcome to join us.) It’s a show about a tragedy that should have never happened (two girls switched at birth, obviously) and how the families deal with it; this new normal that is not normal at all.

It’s TV-14 and has themes that are perhaps a little too mature for Marley, as there’s a bit of teenage sex going on, but it’s very well done. And it gives us great discussion points. We talk after about what happens in the show – teenage sex (and how of course that’s something she’ll never do), love, trust, consequences about bad decisions, what makes a family.

I look at my family around me, how the tragedy of the loss of my nieces’ mother, my brother’s wife, my parents’ daughter-in-law, my siblings’ and  my sister-in-law, my friend should have never happened.

But it did.

And now sometimes I talk to my nieces about love and trust and the consequences about bad decisions and teenage sex (and how they are never ever going to have it, but if they do, please be smart and please talk to me because I’m not their mom, but I’m here for them, I’m here). We talk about what makes a family.

We make a family. And this week my house, my home, my family has a few more girls.

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