The day a child in your life overtakes your height is a weird one indeed. Particularly when, up until that moment, you referred to that child as Mini-Me, as was the case with my namesake niece.
With two of us sharing the same name in a fairly close family, there have been many variations on our names to distinguish us in group settings.
At a very early age, maybe 2 or 3, young Martina announced that we should simply call her Nina because, as she said, “it will be easier for all of you grownups that way.” She was right, it was easier.
But then she grew out of Nina and wanted her name back, as she should. While Nina is a perfectly good and lovely name, Martina is also an excellent name and one that she wears well.
Sometimes I would refer to myself as “stinky old Aunt Martina” which was usually good for a laugh but not so practical in day-to-day life. My nephew – her brother – once clarified that I wasn’t really so stinky, even if I was pretty old.
“Except for maybe after flying all day and night to California from Europe, you generally smell pretty fresh, Auntie M.”
That was another name I had – Auntie M – and one I’d been warned to expect from childhood. I distinctly recall a moment when we kids were gathered around the old black and white watching The Wizard of Oz for the umpteenth time and my siblings collectively looking over at me, their little sister – younger by 6, 7 and 8 years respectively – and smiling.
“Auntie M,” they said, slowly shaking their heads in unison. “One day, that’ll be you.” I probably rolled my eyes or kicked the table and sighed into my seat. No point arguing with that crowd, they’d have their way whether I liked it or not.
And so they did and to this day, I am still called Auntie M. I like it, actually, because I loved the Wizard of Oz and the real Auntie Em’s character, but I’m not sure I’ve ever told anyone that. But really, that’s another story entirely.
In any case, back to my namesake niece. At some point she grew taller than me, I’m guessing when she was around 11 or 12. Now, honestly, that isn’t so surprising. If I blow dry my hair and stand up straight, really straight, in sneakers, I’m maybe 5 foot-3 and a ½. The ½ matters, trust me.
The niece I used to fondly refer to, as Mini-Me is now about 5’9”. Tall, leggy and gorgeous, she is. And smart as a whip – science smart – definitely smarter than me. Also not so surprising, since I never even made it through algebra, but again, I digress.
I was there the day she was born. As in really there, like, in the delivery room there. My sister had invited me to witness the birth and I was delighted.
I was also incredibly jet lagged having arrived in The San Francisco Bay Area only the night before, exhausted and maybe a bit stinky, from the south of France. About the same time I arrived at their house, my sister’s water broke and so she left me with their young son and she and her husband headed to the hospital.
After dropping off my nephew with another of his aunts the next morning, by the time I arrived at the hospital, my sister had had an epidural and made childbirth look like something much more manageable than anything I’d ever imagined.
Soon after my arrival, she even joked that she was not so different than a common barnyard animal and then proceeded to moo. Loudly. I giggled.
I did not, however, giggle when I could see the crown of my niece’s head but nothing more. I panicked. You could blame the jet lag, or the fact that I’d never had a baby, or just point out the obvious, that I was clueless when I said – or rather howled, “she can’t breathe!” and panicked.
At which point everyone else in the room did giggle and the doctor looked up and said, “I’m guessing you’re the sister without children?”
And what could I say but “yes” and blush.
“She’s been in there for nine months,” he continued, “she’ll be fine for another few minutes.”
“Oh, right, I knew that. Ha ha,” I answered, feeling ridiculous.
And she was, she was a beautiful baby and it was an incredible transition when the bump in my sister’s belly was revealed as an actual person.
It was at that moment that they told me her name would be Martina. I think I cried with joy more than anyone else that day. A tiny human named after me, what an honor.
This week that tiny human, who now towers over me in size and smarts, turns 20 years old.
Happy Birthday Mini-Mega-Me! Miss Martina, I’m so proud to share your name be your aunt – we the double Martini! I love you!