LESLIE CRISS: Childhood stories enough to get us through teen years

“Don’t laugh at a youth for his affectations; he is only trying on one face after another to find a face of his own.”
– Logan Pearsall Smith

“Nieces are the children that we borrow, intending not to raise but merely love, ever watchful from our open window, caring deeply at a slight remove.”
– Anonymous

“Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.”
– Neil Postman

Saturday, Nov. 6, was a most auspicious occasion. It was the birthday of my one and only niece, Bailey Elizabeth Cook.
It wasn’t just any birthday, but a milestone, of sorts.
Much to the consternation of her parents, her grandparents and me, Bailey has now entered her teen years.
As trite as it sounds, it truly does seem like only yesterday when she was a toddler whose every breath became, for me, fodder for another Bailey story.
She has kindly tolerated the fact that much of her childhood has found its way onto the pages of The Vicksburg Post and the Daily Journal.
She’s been timidly gracious when she’s visited Tupelo and heard total strangers tell her they feel like they know her.
I’m so grateful that I’ll try to cut her some slack during her teen years unless, of course, she does something newsworthy.
For the past 13 years, I’ve learned a lot from this niece of mine.
Because of Bailey I have a renewed appreciation of flickering “fire lights” that light up the darkness on a sultry summer night and the crunch that “acrens” make underfoot in the fall.
Because of Bailey, my imagination has been retooled many times over as I’ve watched her use her own.
My favorite flight of fancy with this blue-eyed wonder remains the time she had her grandparents and me convinced we were all members of a family of witches – friendly, of course – preparing a feast for a bevy of bewitched buddies. Because of Bailey, we believed.
Because of Bailey, I know it’s just fine to sing on – even when you’ve had a bad day or have been sent to the time-out corner for bad behavior.
Years ago, Bailey was banished to such a corner for unacceptable dinner table behavior. She was told to sit on her stool beside the piano and face the wall until her mama deemed her time well spent.
The adults resumed their dining. Then suddenly from the corner of the den came the small but strong sounds of the sweetest of voices singing, “Oh, when the saints come marching in …”
Needless to say, all was forgiven and Bailey was back at the table in no time.
I believe Bailey’s been well equipped by her parents to make it through her teen years and come out on the other side – safe, sound and strong enough to take on the world. I’d like to think I’ve contributed something to the remarkable person she is now – and will continue to become.
She’s certainly made richer the past 13 years of my life.
Thanks, Bailey. And happy birthday.

Contact Leslie Criss at leslie.criss@djournal.com or (662) 678-1584.


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