I met you when you had just turned 5. It was winter and we all met at Grandma and Grandpa Mattern’s house. You were full of joy and curiosity. You sat on my lap immediately and helped calm my nerves: you didn’t know this, but I was meeting your family for the first time. And I was 6 months pregnant. And we weren’t married. Talk about the pressure! But you, with your little blonde pigtails, and big beautiful smile…you made everything feel alright.
Later that day we were allowed to take you home and got a taste of what being a family was really like. You and Noah were in the backseat in car seats which we learned how to install properly with the help of your mother. And then our heat went out, in Minnesota, in December, so we bundled you guys both up and covered you with blankies. You both seemed to enjoy the adventure. We had to play Avril Lavigne’s “Sk8er Boy” the entire way home-it was your favorite song. Two hours of that was torture, but we loved the feeling you and Noah gave us—the feeling of being more than just committed to one another, more than just responsible to one another, and more than boyfriend and girlfriend who were about to have a baby. You guys made us feel a part of something bigger. And that is when I realized I was actually going to be your aunt someday. This was a huge responsibility and I have not been there as much as I should, but tomorrow, when you walk across that stage, I want you to remember…
Remember all the work you put in as an accomplished gymnast? You are more than an accomplished gymnast even though that IS A LOT. You are the work you put in every day for the past ten years. That work ethic is going to be necessary for the rest of your life and you will do well because of all you endured on the floor, in front of crowds on the beam, and flying back and forth on the uneven bars.
Remember the pain? It has not been too long ago, and it may still be aching, but always remember the pain. If you do, everything in life will be much sweeter. You won’t take as much for granted if you remember the pain of injuries and loss.
Remember that time we took the paddleboards out to lake Melissa and lost track of time? Your dad was pretty worried-that and he probably needed a break from watching the little kids! Call your mother. Call your father. Call all the grandparents. Time is short and when we get caught up, we forget that time has passed so quickly. Texting is convenient but a phone call will be magical in the eyes of your family.
Remember how much fun we had tubing the river? Make time for fun. You work so hard and are so focused that you must remember to give yourself a break. Find a healthy escape. Go tubing! Go rollerblading! Go fishing! Have healthy fun.
Remember watching fireworks and singing Katy Perry? Sing. It doesn’t matter if it is in tune or more like yelling—keep singing.
Remember how often it was just you and Noah out on the water? Or down by the river fishing? Or tinkering with something in the garage? Although he is grown, he still needs his sister. Don’t forget about him when you are away at college. Make time for him to come and visit. Visit him at home as well.
Remember playing Uno, Dominoes, or Five Crowns at Grandma and Grandpa Davis’? You would get so mad Grandpa wouldn’t let you win. Never lose your competitive nature, and never forget the lesson he was teaching you: play hard for what you want, but it is not always going to end in your favor.
Remember how I would always buy you a book for Christmas? Keep trying to find one that you actually like. Once you do, let me know the author and I will send you all his or her books!
Remember hunting with your dad? Find that peace in your daily life. Find that quiet moment—recognize it, and smile. Too often we live in such a fast paced schedule that we forget about those quiet times.
Remember attending Uncle Paul’s graduation? Well my dear, now it is time for yours. Walk confidently and capture this moment. You have achieved so much, but what we are most delighted to see is the fact that you have empathy and are a woman who will continue to do what is right even when the others choose wrong. Your choices are going to be more challenging, and you will fall, but you have the strength to pick yourself up and move forward. You will learn from these mistakes and they will help you grow. Do not be so hard on yourself.
Janis Joplin once said, “Don’t compromise yourself. You are all you’ve got.” I had this quote hanging on my locker in high school, and then took it to college. The first line still rings true today but Mathia, know that your family is here for support. You do not have to rely solely on yourself.
And I am still here, waiting to rock out with you in the car on some random errand your mother will send us on to find a kiddie pool or chicken nuggets. Maybe Avril Lavigne will make a comeback.Who knows where our next adventure will take us? I cannot wait to see what the future holds for you.
Happy Graduation. Thank you for making me your Aunt Carrie.