rebecca & ryan

For as long as they’ve been alive, my younger cousins, Rebecca and Ryan, would come up from Atlanta to spend 1-2 weeks of their summer vacation with my family in Pittsburgh.  Ryan, now 14, was a toddler when the annual routine began so you can imagine how connected I’ve become to them over the years.  With their residence being in Atlanta and me now in Chicago, I don’t get to see them too often anymore…but fortunately I’ve been able to see them twice here in Chicago these past two years.  

This week, the Norton Family traveled up north to join Rebecca, (gasp) a senior in high school, and her school’s band as they were chosen as one of the bands across the world (seriously!) to play at McCormick Place in front of hundreds of enlightened guests.  PS. They are A*MAY*ZING.  Sure, I’m bias, sitting there with a sparkle of pride for my cousin who’s grown up before my very eyes, but their music elicited peace & serenity to the craziness that my life has been.

Spending time with Rebecca & Ryan these past two days has brought a sense of nostalgia to my mind, as I recall the memories of their childhood and those summer weeks we enjoyed together.  But it was more than that.  Today I write acknowledging how much they’ve grown…and how beautifully they’ve done it.  Even though I don’t get to see them very often, I am blessed to have them in my life. 

With Rebecca following her band’s practice schedule on Thursday, I was able to spend quality time with Ryan.  Our adventures began as we trekked up tot he 103rd floor of the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) onto Skydeck.  (Our picture will be added as soon as I receive it.)  From there, Ryan took me up on my offer to have a sleep-over…even after telling him about the bed bugs.  What a kid!  Seriously though, he’s a great kid- if I can call a fourteen-year old boy a kid.  Anyways, we had a great time running around my neighborhood, calling my brother on the phone, and watching The Other Guys.  Looking back on Thursday night, I’m realizing even more that Ryan is not a little boy anymore.  He’s quite an A*MAY*ZING guy!

Friday was the day of Rebecca’s concert, so Ryan and I had to wake up earlier than we hoped to head downtown to meet up with his parents and grandparents.  Unfortunately I didn’t have a chance to talk to Rebecca beforehand, but I looked upon her mesmerized during the entire show thinking, When did my little cousin grow up to become such a beautiful woman.  I was so excited to see her after the show and pleasantly surprised with her returned excitement. 

I spent the remainder of my Friday playing hookie with Ryan, Rebecca, her grandparents, my Aunt Judy & Uncle Phil, and a group of 70 high school band members and their parents.  Yes, it was better than being at work; however, it still wasn’t a typical day off in Chicago.  But it was perfect.  While I enjoyed hanging out with Ryan and the rest of the Norton family, the highlights of my day centered around the time I got to spend with Rebecca.  From talking to her about the cute twentysomething- year old tuba player (her crush, not mine) to talking about her hope of getting into Georgia Tech, and our triptastic night at Blue Man Group where we got hit with a chunk of J-E-L-L-O (Picture to prove it., each moment made me realize how proud I am of the woman she’s become. 

As I reflected on the time I spent with my cousins, I realized that they’re not just cousins to me.  I truly see Rebecca and Ryan as my sister and brother.  The pride I have for them can only be rationed as that.  My love for them is unconditional.  In my eyes they can do no wrong.

So, Rebecca & Ryan, I hope you truly know how much I love you.  I am so proud of how much you’ve grown and look forward to witnessing all your successes.  I will always have your back- and so will Nicky.  If you’re having a bad day and need some cheering up, call me.  If you just received the best news of you life, then I hope you’ll share it with me.  And if you ever just want to visit Chicago, then know that your plane ticket is on me.

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