Dad, who looks not unlike Santa Claus, called to Smallest, mentioning he had placed his presents in his room. I believe this was meant to be one of those 'lead by example' moments.
Smallest, smearing pink polish on her tiny fingernails, glanced up and acknowledged his statement with what I thought was a rather regal nod.
He repeated it, stopping in front of her and blocking her light.
"Good for you," she said simply, looking up with eyebrows raised in challenge and tiny chapped lips curved into a smug smile. And her toys - the piles of boxes and stacks of bags - remained scattered about her feet.
"You can do that one," Little One directed when I emerged after the family had departed - partially in tears as someone had bossed the only boy who retaliated and all merry-hell broke loose until they put on coats and loaded cars. My eldest niece sobbed from her grandfather's arms - I'd hurt her tender feelings when I said she was being bossy. (But she was!) She'd eventually forgiven me (Mom interceded) and I was allowed to stick tiny gems on stickers.
So there I was - sleepily bedazzling a cupcake sticker - and I glanced up at her across the table, so much like me that my heart warms even as it worries. For all my good qualities - and there are some (really) - I'm bossy and dramatic and impatient and selfish and all those things that leave me wanting to warn Little One even as I cuddle her.
"Uh oh," I told her, my distraction causing a departure from our crafty plan. "I used the clear instead of the blue because I thought the clear were light blue." I let my fretful gaze meet her curious one and she shrugged and smiled, benevolent in her crafty leadership. "We can use the blue instead of clear on this cupcake," she decided.
So when she asked for ice cream - with both chocolate and strawberry syrup - I decided that I'd be a benevolent 'one tall enough to reach the freezer' and fetch it.
Chienne remained excited about opening gifts - she received a squeaky toy and some munchy sticks and tennis balls which she promptly shredded into tiny pieces that I'm still picking from my parents' carpet.
We've been mostly peaceful - apart from the coughing and blowing of noses and occasional squabbles. We played more games - electronic and board - had more food and learned how to use allowances on iTunes (after Little One's last spree cost her Aunt Katie upwards of $300).
And between the requests to fetch this or pick that up, there have been cuddles and kisses and snuggles on laps while reading books. Brother and I danced to Justin Bieber while his girls sang along - all the while helping Mom put together little keychains for a church banquet.
And I read 3:16, a gift from Aunt, that might finally be chipping away at the layer that seems to be keeping me from connecting with the world. Or so I pray.