Eleven Years Ago Today…

I was working at a certain family amusement park, passing out laser guns and explaining why it’s not appropriate to hit people in the darkness of the game room, when from the corner of my eye I noticed my brother–in blue hospital scrubs carrying something blue in his hand– and my mother–bearing fried food–approaching.

I knew this surprise family visit, capped by my brother’s beaming (and I do mean *beaming*) face could only mean one thing:

I had a nephew.

My sister-in-law had called the night before to say her water broke and that she was going to the hospital, but that bouncing baby boy didn’t make an appearance until after one in the afternoon the following day.

And since then he’s provided countless smiles, laughs, hugs, and kisses as well as the all-important concept of “hugging you down,” a bear hug/tackle best carried out on the floor and with a running start.

Some of my fondest memories involve my nephew, my now-deceased grandfather, who was sure that he was the only one that could get the little guy to sleep (he was right for a while there) and Kit-Kats, which Pap insisted were not candy because of the wafers involved (that made them cookies, and OK to give him darn it!).

I can’t believe eleven years have passed since that wonderful day when you taught me that I really was a “baby person” after all. Amazing what a cooing smile can do.

And so to Michael, my favorite nephew, I wish you a happy, happy birthday and a year full of joys, big and small; I only wish I could be there to share this day with you (except for the getting braces part–you’re on your own there).

I miss your hug-me-downs terribly.

Happy Birthday Michael!
And don’t let Manny do this to your cake!

Baci e abbracci
Aunt Shell

50 Beans of Wisdom to “Eleven Years Ago Today…”
  1. Carla

    Michelle, that is such a sweet post! I’m sure Michael will have a better birthday just reading it. Aren’t nephews amazing? πŸ™‚ I am my nephew’s godmother as well and I can just imagine how hard it will be to be apart from him.


  2. sognatrice

    Carla, ah! You reminded me that I should also have referred to him as my favorite godson πŸ˜‰

    Being away from him and my niece (whose birthday is next Tuesday!) is absolutely the hardest part of being here–missing that everyday stuff that won’t happen again is so sad πŸ™

    But I like to think that someday when they’re older, they’ll appreciate having a zia in Italia πŸ˜‰

  3. witnessing am i

    So you are a “baby person,” you miss your nephew and niece terribly, and you have found the love of your life in P. Hmmmm, perhaps the next logical step would be. . .

    Congrats on 11 years of being a pretty wonderful zia, which I am sure you are.

  4. Christine

    Aww, Happy Birthday!

    And Knoebels! When we were growing up we would go there every Labor Day for the weekend. The last time was probably fifteen or sixteen years ago.

  5. Audra


    You’re such a good aunt! πŸ™‚

  6. The (Mis)Adventures of a Single City Chick

    My oldest nephew turned 11 a week ago. I’m also his Godmother, so I feel your pride and love for your own nephew and niece (my niece turned 7 two weeks ago). At this point in my life, I’m begrudgingly accepting the fact that I’ll doubtfully have any of my own children, but am very much enjoying the role of favorite auntie to my niece and three nephews. πŸ™‚ I just don’t know how I’d handle being far away from them (they only live 15 and 25 minutes away from me), so I totally understand how hard that must be for you. But as you said, as they grow older, they’ll definitely be glad auntie Michelle lives where she does, so they can come visit! πŸ™‚


  7. Karina

    Awww…happy birthday to your nephew! What a sweet post this was!

  8. somepinkflowers

    best wishes to all!

    i love the kit-kat story
    as that is how i can give up
    Real Candy myself…

    A kit-kat IS A COOKIE!

    everyone ~~knows~~ that..


    PS–i picked up *lion news*
    for you & yours in portland…

    come pick it up
    when you aren’t making something
    with tomatoes….


  9. Figs Olives Wine

    I bet you’re a great aunt! Happy birthday to Michael!

    Bummer about the braces kid. Get it over with before high school.

  10. Britt-Arnhild

    Happy birthday to your nephew.
    11 is a wonderful age πŸ™‚

  11. sognatrice

    Witnessing, have I ever told you how much I love your subtlety? πŸ˜‰

    Christine, hmm, fifteen/sixteen years ago, I wasn’t working there yet, but I may have run into you on the Phoenix or something πŸ˜‰

    Audra, grazie πŸ™‚

    Christina, isn’t being an auntie just the best? I’m so blessed to have such a wonderful niece and nephew–not to mention the ones I’ll get when P and I make it official (although they already call me “zia”) πŸ™‚ Thanks for your encouraging words, and keep the hope alive!!!

    Karina, glad you liked it πŸ™‚

    SPF, I thought the reasoning was rather convincing myself on the Kit-Kat issue. Can’t wait for this lion news!

    Amanda, I didn’t even hear about the braces until today–I couldn’t believe he’d have to get them on his birthday!

    Britt-Arnhild, thanks for your good wishes; I think he’ll rather enjoy being 11 as well πŸ™‚

  12. it's me, Val

    So very sweet you are πŸ™‚ Happy Birthday to him!

  13. Farfallina - Roam 2 Rome

    Ciao Sognatrice!

    I loved this post from you! πŸ™‚ Aren’t nephews great? Well, I must admit that as I typed my pre-school nephew decided to run out the door (for the 10th time) and activate the neighbors car alarm, so he’s on “time out”, hmmm…

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Michael!

  14. Wicked H

    I see your nephew means as much to you as my niece does to me.

    Sending a very Happy Birthday wish to him!!

  15. bspita

    You brought back many fond memories(Pap, kit-Kats, how proud your brother was)–NOT the 14 hours of labor.
    Michael loved the post.
    Mia, however, is expecting a post twice as long.

  16. My Melange

    Such a nice Aunt you are!. I have a nephew(who is the cutest) who lives very close by and since I will not likely have kids of my own…would love the opportunity to be a great Aunt! But, alas….my brother puts the *dys* in dysfunctional..and so I don’t get to see my nephew as much as I would like πŸ™ Thankfully, I am ‘Aunt Robin’ to C’s neice and nephew πŸ™‚

  17. cheeky

    Warm birthday wishes to your nephew. I’ve missed you and the blog. I’m slowly coming back. It is August so perhaps it’s ok for me to follow suit and consider August “a long holiday”.
    They grow so quickly. It saddens me that I too will miss the day-to-day stuff with my neice, who just turned 8, and my nephew who’s turning 4 soon. They are precious little gems.
    I like the sound of you saying you are a “baby person”. One day . . . little bambinis running about?

  18. Jeni

    Ten years ago this past Sunday was a big day for me too – my first grandchild arrived – my “little prince” who now is anything but little. He’s very tall for his age – looks like he is about 13 or so. But like your nephew, he has changed my life immensely. Now he has to share the attention with my granddaughter (Maya) and the baby -Kurtis, my “little Duke.” Nothing better as far as I’m concerned and I think my daughter would agree completely on your thoughts about your nephew too as she absolutely adores her nephew too -braces and all!

  19. Jeni

    Oh my – my daughter is also my grandson’s Godmother too! And Knoebels? Just happens to be a place my grandson -and his mother – and her fiance too – absolutely love! I’ve never been there but it’s not that terribly far from where my daughter lives in Centre County. (A lot closer to her than it is to me, anyway.)

  20. Frances

    What a wonderful auntie you are.
    Wishing your nephew many many more happy healthy birthdays.
    Ciao Bella,

  21. sognatrice

    Val, thanks, and I’m sure Michael thanks you as well πŸ™‚

    Farfallina, nephews sure are fun…and also have their moments too, for sure. But we won’t dwell on those on happy days πŸ˜‰

    Wicked H, there’s just something so great about being an aunt–it’s hard to explain in words really. And I’m exceptionally lucky because my niece and nephew are really great kids (and I’d say that even if we weren’t related). Thanks for commenting πŸ™‚

    Bspita, hah! I wasn’t sure on the exact number of hours of labor, so I’m glad you clarified that. I’m glad to hear Michael enjoyed his day out at the blog, and now the pressure is on me for next week, huh? Hmm….

    Robin, sorry to hear about the situation with your brother–hurts not only you two, but the kids as well obviously. At least you get to play auntie somehow though–and I’m sure you’re a fabulous one πŸ™‚

    Cheeky! You’re back (are you back?). I’m sure things are quite hectic where you are, but I do look forward to catching up when you’re up to it. Yeah! I’m so happy to see your name here! Another one with the baby hints, though….

    Jeni, congratulations on your tenth anniversary of being a grandmother! Little ones truly do change lives, don’t they? And isn’t it wonderful? As for Knoebel’s, you know it really is a little treasure in the middle of PA. Even if you’re not into rides (like I’m not anymore), the food you can get there is really, really good–but what else would you expect from the middle of PA, cradle of German, Irish, Italian, Polish, Russian, Lithuanian, etc., immigrants? The ice cream at the Old Mill is truly something to make the trip for πŸ˜‰

    Frances, thank you much on behalf of Michael πŸ™‚

  22. Poppy Fields

    Bon anniversaire Michael.
    Missing little milestones like family birthdays is one of the hard aspects of expat life.

  23. JoAnn-NL "Through my Dutch eyes" :)

    Hi ,
    What a nice (impressif) story, My dog is always trying to ‘stell the cake-cookies ” whatever…

    I had to Laugh, to read about the πŸ™‚

    Bye JoAnn πŸ™‚

  24. Marmite Breath

    Happy Belated Birthday to you, Michael. Hope your day was fantastico!

  25. sognatrice

    Meredith, thanks for the good wishes, and I wholeheartedly agree πŸ™

    JoAnn, you have a bad doggie! But I bet s/he is just so cute, you can’t really get angry πŸ˜‰

    Nat, thanks! I talked to Michael today, and he appreciates all the happy birthdays (but still can’t eat right because of those dang braces) πŸ™‚

  26. Jen

    Happy B’day to your nephew! My nephew turned me into a baby person, too. Funny how they manage to do that πŸ˜‰

  27. sognatrice

    Jen, thanks for the good wishes–and thank goodness for siblings who procreate before us πŸ˜‰

  28. Currier Quinn Balent

    That was a very sweet tribute to your nephew. Funny, I always thought of kit kats as more cookie than candy also!

    The hardest part of living overseas is missing out on birthdays and holidays.

  29. Taffiny

    Wonderful, sweet post.

    Happy 11th to Michael.

    11 is a fantastic age. It happens to be the age of my son. Old enough to really talk to, (and when necessary to reason with), and still young enough to play.
    Tackle down hugs are the only types of hugs he’ll allow.

    I didn’t think I was at all a baby person, till after my son was born (then I was so smitten). I am glad you know now, that you are. (alleviates some pregnancy stress)

    I used to live within walking distance of my nieces, but then everyone moved (it is now a 6 hour drive). I miss the closeness and times together we used to share, but we still are a part of each others lives.

    For you I imagine a future where your nephew and niece come summer with their zia.

  30. sognatrice

    Currier, thanks; sounds like you and Pap would’ve gotten along just fine πŸ˜‰

    Taffiny, ah, so then you understand the age of 11 perfectly! And you know what? You make an excellent point about alleviating some stress during pregnancy…yet another reason I’m grateful to have a niece and nephew (hoping that alleviation comes in handy someday!).

    And I *love* your vision for the future πŸ™‚

  31. Rebecca

    “Here is to all the great aunts of the world” – they hold a place and do a job that no-one else can!

  32. sognatrice

    Rebecca, yeah! To all the aunties!

  33. JennieBoo

    Happiest of Birthdays, Michael!

    Many, many more!

  34. Wendy

    Aawwwwwwwww! Such a sweet post!

  35. Dave

    Always mind your Pap. I’m going to remember that wafer argument.

  36. sognatrice

    JennieBoo, thanks for the wishes πŸ™‚

    Wendy, glad you liked! Thanks for commenting πŸ™‚

    Dave, excellent advice!

  37. Fango

    Bravissima, M. A lovely heart-felt message to the birthday boy. If only you could teleport yourself there to help light the candles yourself. As for the missing outs… I think having a zia in bel paese outweighs most.

  38. Maryann

    Happy Birthday Michael!

  39. Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah)

    Hmm, sounds like you might just have turned a bit broody over the years, Sognatrice…
    Hope Michael has a wonderful birthday!

  40. sognatrice

    Fango, thanks, and yes, teleporting would come in handy on birthdays and holidays…I’m hoping you’re right about that last part.

    Maryann, I’m sure Michael would thank you, so I’ll do it for him–such a polite young man πŸ˜‰

    AV & A, hmm, I’m not sure if it’s broody or just hearing a certain clock ticking ever so slightly in the background….

    Thanks for your good wishes πŸ™‚

  41. Christine

    I love the “hugging you down” image. It reminds me of my fourteen-year old son.

    A very happy, uplifting post.

  42. Wanderlust Scarlett

    That’s so sweet.
    I have nieces and nephews also, and they are SUCH a delight. I have my own fan club with them… it’s pretty cool.

    11 years… this is a good time. He’s ready to explore the world a bit now… maybe he can come see you sometime soon.

    Scarlett & Viaggiatore

  43. sognatrice

    Christine, it’s just as fun to experience, I guarantee πŸ™‚

    Scarlett, we’re keeping our fingers crossed for an entire family visit next summer…and yes, having small fan clubs isn’t bad for the ego either. I just spent all day with one of P’s nieces, who, incidentally, proclaimed me her favorite zia after knowing me for three minutes two years ago. Not bad considering she has, oh, at least 12 others πŸ˜‰

  44. Erin

    What a sweet post. Happy birthday to your sweet nephew. And happy weekend to you.

  45. Italiana Americana

    awww! how long has it been since you live in italy? πŸ™‚

  46. SabineM

    Happy Birthday to Michael
    The story was very touching. I still have chills!
    I could even see your brother’s beaming face!
    My brother is expecting his first baby (well his wife is the one pregnant) for November!
    My godmother (who is awesome) lives and always has lived in Switzerland (I am the one who moved) and I have always missed her. I love spending time with her!

  47. The Late Bloomer

    What a beautiful tribute and birthday wish to your nephew, Sognatrice! I know exactly how you feel, as my niece turned 10 in June, and it was tough, oh-so-tough, not to be there to celebrate with her. You described those moments you’ve shared with your little nephew over the years so beautifully.

    I’m arriving to your blog very late in the game, too, and I just wanted to thank you for your comment on my blog recently… I’ve got a lot of catching up to do, but I’ll get there — step by step!

  48. Dana

    I love this post. My nephews are only 2 and 4, but so adorable that they could ask to drive my car and I would totally let them do it!
    And I’m sure that your niece and nephew will totally appreciate having a zia in Italia!

  49. sognatrice

    Erin, thanks; I hope you had a lovely weekend as well (mine was!) πŸ™‚

    Italiana, I’ve been here 4 years–as of Sunday the 26th πŸ˜‰

    Sabine, congrats to your brother and sister-in-law, and to you, auntie! Glad you have such great memories of your long-distance godmother πŸ™‚

    Late Bloomer, no worries–you’ll catch up here soon enough; I have a lot of reading to do on your site as well. Being away on the kids’ occasions is rough, isn’t it? It’s better not to think about it too much….

    Dana, hah! That’s funny about driving the car…nieces and nephews sure are powerful πŸ™‚

  1. [...] I mean, I remember the day he was born like it was yesterday–in fact, you can read about it here&#... bleedingespresso.com/2008/08/love-thursday-happy-birthday-michael.html
Michelle KaminskyMichelle Kaminsky is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer who lived in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy for 15 years. This blog is now archived. 

Calabria Guidebook

Calabria travel guide by Michelle Fabio



Homemade apple butter
Green beans, potatoes, and pancetta
Glazed Apple Oatmeal Cinnamon Muffins
Pasta with snails alla calabrese
Onion, Oregano, and Thyme Focaccia
Oatmeal Banana Craisin Muffins
Prosciutto wrapped watermelon with bel paese cheese
Fried eggs with red onion and cheese
Calabrian sausage and fava beans
Ricotta Pound Cake