Pandemic. Protests. Prejudice. Pride. Presidential Peril. Pregnancy. Pearl Jam. Planetary Perpetual P...Wait? Pregnancy?!
Yes. Amidst the tumult and confusion of 2020, my youngest sister Katie and her husband Omar had their 5th child.
My niece Amelia Jean Villanueva arrived without a care or consequence. Just a bright light during a bleak and worried week as we all paused to reflect on a year finally halfway done.
This new Mantecan – of Mexican, Portuguese, and Irish heritage – will hopefully look back one day on 2020 as being a historical footnote. One in which we rallied as humans – weathering a storm long overdue for a shared and interdependent shelter.
Will she peruse the Manteca Bulletin archives 25 years from now? Reading the column penned last week by Demitrius Snaer, asking why he’d suffered prejudices in his life? Curious as to what it was like in 2020 – why that year when mentioned, garners the reaction of a Journey album post Steve Perry. Yeesh.
Or will she just turn to me and say, “Uncle Chris, your room is filthy, and rent is due” as we will undoubtedly be roommates by then.
I take my job as an uncle seriously. Amelia is my 6th niece or nephew sharing DNA, but probably 30th in the line of friend’s kids that call me “Uncle Chris.”
The same friends that encourage me with sentiments such as “Dude you’re getting up there in age, time to have a litter” or “You just plan on dying alone? You’re too good with kids not to have any.”
That last one has always confused me. My Uncle Wes Harris often notes the ease at which I work with kids. Being the oldest male in a group of 21 grandkids has given me the training needed. It has also been a wonderful eye opener as to why I don’t have any.
They are a huge responsibility. Just because God has bestowed me with the gift of being good with kids doesn’t mean I need to ruin it by having my own.
“But you’re so good with kids, it’d be a shame if you never had any.” — Aunt Marlene Harris
“I am good with kids. You know what else I’m good with and don’t have? A snowmobile.” — Me
These same family members that wish kids upon me, would flip their collective lids if I brought home a snowmobile.
“A snowmobile?! Didn’t you just have to borrow money to fix your Jeep?!” — Aunt Marlene
“You’re 2 months behind on rent! I hope that snowmobile has a sleeping compartment.” — Alyce Machado Luis
“A snowmobile?! That’s badass! If I didn’t have your nephew, and wasn’t married to your sister, I’d have one.” — Brother-in-law Brock Hiatt
Let’s do a comparison.
I finally give in, and “buy a snowmobile.”
Fast forward a couple years. I only get to see the snowmobile every other weekend, because the woman I purchased it with has found something new to ride. It spends most of the time at my mother’s house, being neglected by me, as the heavy responsibility of upkeep becomes too much.
People like Mark Condit drive past my mother’s saying, “Why’d we ever think he could handle a snowmobile?”
And therein lies the truth. I’m good with kids and snowmobiles for the same reason.
I don’t own one.
Renting them for the weekend alleviates the burden of responsibility. I can handle both for a few days, but eventually Uncle Chris needs to part ways in short fashion . . .
“Thank you, sister Katie and snowmobile rental agent, it was a great weekend, but here they are. I should warn you, one is leaking fluids out of its rear end, and the other is making a gurgling noise when it runs. I’ll let you guys figure out which is which — I got to get home and watch reruns of Miami Vice.”
That is the joy of Unclehood. Shared moments of nonsense mixed in with a life lesson here and there.
Just before the pandemic hit my oldest nephew Nico discovered my high school CD collection in my grandma’s garage. Being able to influence and steer this 16-year-old musically is an uncle’s joy.
“Uncle Chris are these 100 years old?” — Nico
“No. They’re from the 80’s, smartass.” — Me
“They look really old. How come the cases are all scratched up?!” — Nico
“I just said it was the 80’s, right? Don’t judge.” — Me
Bands like Nirvana, Allman Brothers, Duran Duran made me proud to share with his young ears . . .
But more than once he’d ask, “Who is this?!”
Sheepishly responding “Hey Macarena . . ,”
That CD hasn’t aged well. Stupid early 90’s.
Then he struck gold. My Sir-Mix-a-Lot CD, complete with smash hit “Baby Got back”. That song is undeniable in groove, and impossible to sit down when playing. If we’d open the National Anthem with ten seconds of it, there’d be no kneeling whatsoever — but that’s a different column.
He introduced it to my nieces, and my cool uncle status was ratcheted up once again.
My niece Audrey had one question though. In the middle of the song Sir-Mix-a-Lot raps “I keep my women like Flo-Jo.” She couldn’t grasp the reference.
I explained that it was a shout out to Florence Griffith Joyner; Athlete, Olympian, Fashionista, and as the song says...She was very famous in her day for that endowment.
“Ohhh, so she was like the Kim Kardashian of the 80’s” — Audrey
Out of the mouths of babes. Sort of. I knew this needed to be addressed.
“Yes Audrey, she was exactly like Kim Kardashian, except we were proud of her as Americans.”
It’s not Where ya do, It’s What ya do.