Un-peeling Peyton

photo“All I  want is a vanilla cake!” My niece, Peyton said this morning, over her bowl of cereal. Today, we celebrate Peyton’s eighth birthday and my sister’s___(sworn to secrecy)  birthday, for they were both born on January 10th. It is a special day for me, the day I gained a sister, and a niece. In our family, Peyton is the only pink tubby floating in a sea of grandsons.

She is also a miracle baby. For my sister regretted tying her tubes after watching my belly grow with Colin. She wanted ‘just one more’. Just one more came, in a strong minded, blonde haired, blue eyed little girl.

Peyton’s a mystery to me. Slowly, I am un-peeling her like an onion, layer by layer. She was the one child of Tricia’s I lacked a relationship with. As a toddler, she called me “that girl”.  I deserved the title, I brushed her hair too rough, splashed soap in her eyes while bathing her, didn’t know how to change a girl’s diaper, and  made her compete for her Momma’s attention.

For the last four months, I’ve discovered Peyton and I are not that foreign to one another. To start, she is outgoing and talkative. There are times, we fight over whose going to talk to Tricia. We both have a lot of important things to say. I try to be patient, but sometimes I shush her, because it’s my turn.

For another, we are both a little on the stubborn side. A few nights ago, she wiggled her finger and planted her feet, when my husband Jay opened his arms across the room, and insisted he come to her. I thought I invented that move.

Jay has always teased me for the way I walk. He says, I walk like a tomboy. I’d never seen my walk until Peyton arrived. She swings her arms and swishes her head down the sidewalk, often looking in the clouds.

Peyton’s confidence in her abilities, far exceeds her abilities. I am also a glass full of confidence, no matter what the task, I am a conquerer (at least in my mind).  The day she received a new bike. She rode down the sidewalk.

“I’m a bike riding professional!”  She hollered.

Then, nose dived into a shrub.

I started to run over, but immediately, she jumped up, threw her arms into the air and proclaimed, “I’m not a bike riding professional!”

Although, I recognize bits of myself in Peyton, she is still her Momma’s girl.

When I brought Peyton into her new room, she looked up at me from her desk, filled with art supplies.

“Tammy, I feel so spoiled,” she said. “I have a nice room, a new bike, and I get to go to a Christian school. I’ve always wanted to go to a Christian school.”

That was all it took. Whether I knew enough about her or not, a piece of my heart belonged to her. A piece I’ll never get back.

All things weren’t perfect at first, it wasn’t long before we were fighting. She ran to her room, and shut the door. Stubbornly, I followed her.

Lying on her bed she said, “I still feel weird around you.”

“I feel the same way around you,” I said. “Maybe, we need time to get to know each other.”

It has been four months, since Peyton moved in, and everyday she climbs into my lap for some “loving Tammy time”.  Her mother, Tricia was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer in August. It is the most aggressive cancer one can have, and has spread over her midsection and over her ribs. She is receiving chemo at MD Anderson in Orlando, Florida.

Today on their birthdays, we are celebrating. Tricia is lying in her chair across from me, her eyes closed, while the poison is slowly releasing into her port. This is how she is celebrating…in the fight for her life. Sitting here, I pondered Peyton’s birthday wish. I know Peyton’s wish goes far beyond a vanilla cake. She wishes her momma was well, so she could be home with her Daddy and brothers, but for now, she is being strong, making the most of it, bobbing around in a sea of boy cousins, and un-peeling her Aunt Tammy a layer at a time.

January 2013

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