"Aren't you getting something?" I asked her, a confused look on my face.
"No, I, um, have, um, something at home." This didn't surprise me much. She was always smart with her pennies.
"But, we aren't going to your place?" I realized that we were in the other end of town by this point with no plans of heading her way.
"Ya, I... you know what? I think I'm just going to drive tonight."
And that's when I knew. She was many wonderful things, my wonderful friend, but voluntarily a designated driver she was not. She was pregnant.
In the liquor store I screamed. And shed a few tears. She was the first of us to make that leap and I could not have been more excited. Her husband, then boyfriend, slid up beside us, full of smiles.
"So when are you moving back?" he asked me. I was living two hours away at the time and had always joked that I would move back as soon as they had a baby. And true to my word I was back in Ottawa before her arrival that summer. Which may have also had much to do with my falling in love with my future wife who also happened to live here. But who's to say which was the bigger draw.
I loved her before she was born. The product of two of my very favourite people in the entire world. Even when she was a baby and wanted absolutely nothing to do with me. I learned to avert my eyes from her because I knew that eye contact would make her scream. I played hard to get and ignored her. A little later I began to arrive with chapstick in my pocket. Never above bribing a toddler.
And when I got my first DSLR camera she was in front of my lens the next day. In full auto mode without any knowledge of what I was doing. She was always my most willing subject.
I read in a book once that learning photography is like learning a language. The easiest way to learn a language is to fall in love with a native speaker. Similarly, those who are in love with their subjects are more motivated to learn photography. This is why so many moms pick up a camera after the arrival of their precious bundles. I didn't have children when the photography bug bit me but I had Cailey.
And now, here she is, a tall, lanky, sweet, funny, smart, and sassy person in her own right. She can make you laugh like her father. She can hold her ground like her mother (which is euphemistic for the girl is mad stubborn). And she's one hundred other things that are uniquely her.
I didn't really need any more reasons to love her. But now that my own son is here, and turning into his own little person, watching her play with him, whether out of pity or boredom or motherly instinct, has done the job. And my son's complete and total adoration of "NeeNee" is a sight to behold.
If you were to ask Mac how much he loves his big cousin (by love rather than by blood) he would probably tell you THIS MUCH.
Which is precisely how much I love her too.