The Aged and the Agile: 10 Startling Things I Learned About My 9-Year-Old Niece over the Holidays

1. She is often airborne.

The lovely lass has been taking gymnastics lessons for some time, and apparently the leaders of this possible cult encourage their members to practice ALL the time. This results in startling moments when said lass will perform sudden handsprings across the kitchen counter whilst the bleary-eyed adults are just trying to sip their morning coffee.

2. She doesn’t have bones that can easily snap like the dried-out older people.

As can often happen when trying to get the best score from the Olympic judges that are possibly hiding in the laundry room, excessive zeal during an otherwise spectacular tumbling maneuver can lead to missed targets and small bodies slamming into innocent walls. Post-crash, the little trooper simply springs up and races off to prepare for another exhibition, whereas any adult involved in the slamming would be in traction and fully qualified to star in a Hallmark movie about plucky people who can no longer use their body parts but still have a good enough heart that Tori Spelling will marry them at some point.

3. The global energy crisis has been resolved.

She never stops moving. Ever. This is what is known as a “natural, unlimited resource”. No one has to drill for anything and the planet remains green and friendly. We just need to make a few clones of my niece (based on observed energy output, I don’t think we would need more than half a dozen little dynamos or so to light the entire universe), convince them that it is fashionably acceptable to run about whilst tethered to a power grid (“sweetie, ALL the cheerleaders are wearing cords these days”), and not charge anybody a penny for the output, since youngsters don’t even need or understand money.

We’ll probably get a Nobel Peace Prize for this, what with people no longer needing to go to war over oil and stuff. (I’m sure certain zealous misogynists will soon find another reason to justify international conflict, but hopefully this won’t happen until after the nice people in Sweden have handed us a check.)

4. She can wear absolutely anything and still be adorably cute.

Uncle Brian: “Sweetie, that outfit is the cutest thing ever. Who got that for you?”

Niece (rolling eyes, because adults are just so stupid and you have to explain things to them): “I made it out of popsicle sticks and dryer lint. Last week when the Disney Channel wasn’t working because I landed on the remote control and it got stuck and we had to watch America’s Stupidest Redneck Weddings for three days.”

Uncle Brian: “Are you going to be a fashion designer when you grow up?”

Niece (rolling eyes, because she was nine years old and clearly a mature woman in her eyes): “Nope. I’ll just let Mommy keep buying me things to wear. Most of the time she does a good job.” (Then her rolling eyes briefly stopped on a wadded-up Kohl’s sack that had been shoved in a corner, presumably containing a horrid garment that had not met couture requirements and had been left out as a warning against future Mommy slip-ups.)

5. There is absolutely nothing wrong with watching the same episode of a young-adult program at least 714 times.

During one of these repeat sessions, The Guinness Book of Tweenager Records called and wanted to interview us for shattering the old milestone. I told them they might as well wait, because we still had two days left in our visit and we could easily watch this same show another thirty times. They have a plane on standby.

6. Hip nine-year-olds have their own language and knowledge base.

I often felt like Forrest Gump in that extended bit of the movie where he kept running and running. We didn’t really know why he was doing that or where he was going but we just assumed we would understand more when he got there. I never did understand some of my niece’s oratory destinations, but at least I got a nice telegram from Sally Field explaining that sometimes it’s better to have a small part in the movie than not be in it at all.

7. My niece really, really, really likes to win at video and board games.

Enter the arena at your own risk. Pay no attention to the caged lions off to one side that can be released with a small signal from Angelic Niece. Hunker down and pray for daylight.

8. My niece has a vast and healthy imagination.

Any playtime activity (which is basically any waking moment) can turn into a fantastic adventure full of creativity concerning otherwise mundane things, proving that you don’t need fancy, over-priced toys that require multiple batteries be shoved up their butt.

The most exciting visit to the Imaginarium? We took the Woody and Jessie dolls from Toy Story, rechristened them Snickers and Jolly Rancher to better suit our indie, on-the-fly, Quentin Tarantino script, and set out on a quest to recover a holy receptacle that had been stuffed with candy before being whisked away by one of the many evil Pig Kings that live in the niece’s mandatory pile of stuffed animals.

It was a treacherous journey, with both of us dying several times, mostly due to the murky “rules of engagement” that my niece kept changing on a whim (I’m assuming she was a double agent with the Porky People). But we’ve learned from video games that you just have to push a button and everybody is breathing again, so it was all good. We eventually triumphed, cramming sugar-based products into our mouths and then racing out to the family room to share our adventures with the other relatives. They just looked at us and then went back to watching America’s Funniest Redneck Plumbing Incidents.

9. Mandatory bedtime is an outrage against the youth of the world, and those youths have banded together to form Occupy Living Room to have their grievances addressed.

Sadly, the social and political network in this country is still dominated by The Big People with Money. Big People who can still pick you up and carry you to the slumber chamber which you dread (even though said chamber was the delightful land of Snickers and Jolly Rancher mere minutes ago, where sugar caches could be discovered in the most amazing places).

And then you are ungraciously plunked down in the cushy bed, where you will pout for the three minutes it takes you to fall asleep (700 cartwheels does take its toll after all), drifting away while the adults continue swilling from glass bottles, consuming a forbidden nectar that makes them increasingly louder and happier and erroneously convinced that they can beat all takers in something called “beer pong”.

10. I really need to get back home to Tulsa more often than I do.

Jolly Rancher still has more treasures to find, and I want to be her sidekick whenever I can…




Originally published in “The Sound and the Fury” on 01/06/12. Slight changes made. Jolly Rancher will be turning 16 in a few weeks, and we no longer fight the evil Pig Kings. She is caught up in the societal whirlwind of high school, on the verge of being given a driver’s license, and she has little interest in what once was or reminders of such. But I’m still allowed to call her “Jolly Rancher”, as long as I do so discreetly, and her smile reminds me of the faded time when we would play for hours and never wanted to go to bed…


33 replies »

  1. This sounds absolutely like the most (exhausting) fun in the world. My nieces are 7 and 5, the youngest spending most of the time on all fours as her alter-ego Everest the dog (no, really). The endless games with ever-changing, incomprehensible rules (I never win, obviously), the fact that almost everything is in some way magical and everything must be carried out whilst twirling and shouting at the top of our voices. Absolutely perfect. But – my god, I’m pleased I don’t have any of my own. Kids are INSANITY 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • It truly was exhausting fun, with me wearing thin, on the verge of medical intervention. And my sister would often attempt to stop the endless shenanigans, explaining to her daughter that Uncle Brian might need a bit of rest or an organ transplant. But Niece would then look at me with her doe eyes, and I would be back in the fray once again. Sublime…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. ‘Never grow up’ (I refer to J N Barrie not Taylor Swift for the avoidance of doubt) …. the exhausting list of elasto-girl’s daily flick-flacking frolics and the delight of real imagination, competitiveness and dramatic resistance to indignities such as bad mum fashion choices and bedtime are so touchingly juxtaposed against your post-script of the mid-teen almost grown young woman (at least in her feisty high school mind) …. long may you ride, Jolly Rancher ‘cry that kiss you for I must own that I shall miss you when you have grown’. Loved this. 💖

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’ll make a quick stop in Tulsa for you this weekend. Les and I are taking our first road trip of the year to.. (ugh)Bartlesville to pick up our 8 yr. old grandson from his Mom’s funny farm and return him to his Dad’s dump back in Nashville. (long, slightly sad story)

    Know any GOOD casinos in Tulsa?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Aw. ❤ *sniffle* I have FIVE of your Jolly Ranchers…all growed up women now. And prepare for it sir, one day (sooner than you can even imagine), some real life version of "Snickers" will come to whisk her down an aisle and then she'll really become unreachable. I have fond memories of a wee golden haired lassie who wanted nothing more than to play Barbies (endlessly) with her Auntie…now she teaches school, has bought a house and is married to a chemical engineer….and Barbie is relegated to the mists of time or until she bears her own wee golden haired lassie.. aw, crud. Excuse me while I go look for the tissue box..I got some smoke in my eye..

    Liked by 4 people

    • Oh, trust that the smoke got in my eyes as well from simply editing this bit. With all the modern technology we have these days, surely they can invent a contraption where we can freeze a moment forever and watch the playback endlessly…


  5. Aw, this was great! Even if she doesn’t show it, I’m willing to bet she has fond memories of playing with her cool Uncle Brian.
    By the way, I remember well the difficulty of toys dying too quickly into playtime. My nephew and I (years ago) solved it via a quick shower and commercial inspiration: “GI Joe needs to be brought back to life! That’s why he uses Coast Deodorant soap!” 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    • My heart hopes she remembers, and I’m pretty sure she does, because we had entirely too much fun. (Illegal in certain countries!) But even if she doesn’t, I do, and that will soften the inevitable crazy-ass things her young adult mind will inspire her to do, making my memories Zestfully Clean! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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