On a humid evening in February last year, I was in a long, snaking queue of passengers waiting to board a flight.
My evening was magically transformed, when I received a call that my sister had just delivered a baby girl. And from then on, till I boarded the flight, it was just excited texting and calling on our various family and extended family groups.
When I landed at my destination, and switched on my phone, I was greeted by the cutest picture of my tiny niece, her eyes tightly shut, tiny fingers curled around a cosy blanket. And my heart filled with love and tenderness!!!
In mid-June last year, I had the opportunity to visit my sister and of course my darling niece, who was by then gurgling, making eye-contact and dishing out sweet toothless smiles of recognition. She was like a tiny doll, and I carried her with me wherever I went.
Soon it was time to head back home, to catch another flight – back to a world inhabited by teens, a world far removed from gurgles and toothless grins.
And the year flew by on wings, and I watched my niece virtually, on video calls each week – watched her crawl, sit up, have solids, recognize colours; watched her hair grow out into beautiful curly ringlets, watched her smiling with her first cute milk tooth.
And thus 2019 disappeared to inhabit the pages of history. When we rang in the New Year, little did I know that I would not be able to travel at all this year – that I would miss my niece’s first birthday party.
A few months ago, on a call with my sister, I watched my niece taking her first tentative steps.
I am now a fully qualified Virtual Aunt, who engages her niece on video calls. Now, when I call my sister, my niece ambles over to grin and babble with her Virtual Aunt, whom she now recognizes very well.
The best gift was last week, when she walked over and said, “Hi Pamma”….( a baby version of Periamma, or mom’s elder sister). My heart just melted.
I thank technology for making such beautiful moments possible during these difficult times.