I'm starting a new tradition here on my blog—the birthday tribute. Friends and family, beware. I will not even ask your permission to post compromising photos here. That's how much I love you all.
The first victim, er, recipient of the birthday tribute is my niece Madelaine who turns 12 today.
When Madie was born, we were in the process of moving into a new house. My sister was starting a new life with her new partner and the new baby. I was feeling resentful because I didn't want to move from Makati, where I was born and raised, to Cainta, which I had never even been to before. Makati was Urbanite Heaven, with its high-rise buildings and classy shops and restaurants. Compared to it, Cainta was Nowhere Land, and I felt like I was being dragged from civilisation into oblivion.
Whilst we were busy unpacking and trying to make sense of our new life (and I was still boiling with resentment), my sister came home with this little baby from the hospital. She was tiny. And man, was she just the cutest thing ever. I couldn't stay angry for long. Madie made everything bearable.
I remember a few days into our move, I was left home with Madie, as everyone else had gone back to our old house to help my other sister and her family move into their new home. I'd like to say that she was the best-behaved baby in the whole world, and we had a lovely quiet time together but I'm afraid Madie, even at less than a week old, was already feisty. And loud. I'm sure all the crying she did that evening must have damaged my eardrums in some way. Those hours that I spent with her, trying to comfort her and give her her formula, were extremely exhausting. But those trying hours cemented my bond with this little girl. I knew I was going to be her doting aunt for life.
When I left the Philippines over eight years ago, I felt quite despondent at leaving my family behind. The thought of not being there as Madie and her baby brother Kyle grew up was upsetting for me, especially since I had helped looked after all my older nephews and nieces. I didn't want to be cut out of their lives, but I had to go and make my own new home. Somehow though we have managed to stay close through the years, thanks to Friendster and now, Facebook. It has been wonderful to witness Madie grow from a shrill-voiced, wriggly toddler into a shrill-voiced, less wriggly girl.
But oh my, in the last couple of years, she seems to have just grown at breakneck speed. Goodness me, what a transformation!
This was how Madie looked when I last saw her in person five years ago:
She's the little girl striking a pose on the right. (By the way, this is one of my favourite photos of all time. It brings back a lot of lovely memories of our last visit to the Philippines and it's a reminder of how fast time flies. I can hardly remember Lucas, Kyle, Donna and Madie as being this age.)
And here she is now:
Isn't she gorgeous? (I'm so grateful for having nieces and nephews that provide proof that cuteness runs in my family.)
I never cease to be amazed by this growing-faster-than-I-can-imagine Madie. For one thing, she's a beautiful mixture of her parents' talents—her father comes from a family of artists and indie filmmakers, while my sister is a terrific singer and dancer. Madie's pretty good at drawing pictures, and she's also a wonderful dancer and singer. (Oh, and yes, she has acted in a few films too.) And this is what I admire most about her: Not only does she have talent and ambition, but she's also actively working to make her dreams come true. She takes lessons and works hard for every performance that she does. Her networking skills are so much better than mine. She's even made it possible for her to meet her idol and inspiration a few times! How many grown-ups do you know are doing what this little twelve-year-old is doing?
Dear Madie, thank you for being a part of my life and teaching me about resilience and seizing the day and making things happen in your own life. As long as you believe in your power to create a beautiful life for yourself, I'm sure you'll do great whichever path you choose. Happy birthday, baby girl!