I am, quite possibly, the biggest softie in the entire free world. Now I know that may come as a surprise given that my tough side equally represents. I can be a hard ass when I need to be, certainly. However, to bring the point home, let me hearken back to my 8th grade graduation. The teachers at Pilgrim Lutheran Grade School got together every year to do a comedy sketch, lampooning that year’s crop of graduates. The teacher chosen to play me, Mrs. Halter, a flaming red haired, pale skinned woman (admittedly, the best physical choice for the role), hammed up two elements when fashioning my character: huge green glasses, and a whole lotta crying. Her portrayal stung with the humiliating brand of truth that 13 year-old girls cannot endure in front of their peers. I wished I could scream that it was horribly off base to depict me as a nonstop water works, but I knew even then that the basis for any good roasting is a healthy dose of reality.
I have grown somewhat of a thicker skin over the years, but I am still pretty damned weepy. How many times have I bawled after a particularly moving routine on So You Think You Can Dance? Jennifer Hudson, when she competed on her season of American Idol (her 7th place finish was a travesty that has since been exposed), brought tears to me eyes every time she lifted that beautiful voice toward the sky. This year’s episode of The Office which finally inaugurated the marriage of Jim and Pam choked me up in the extreme.
But as 10 year-old KK was reminded anew today, Aunt Becky’s tears are not limited to the privacy of her living room and television stimulation. Yes, even though KK is my sister Jen’s daughter, I reserve the right to play the proud Aunty and write about this kid. KK and I have always had a special bond – dating back to when I lived with her and Jen for nearly the entire first two years of her life. I changed KK diapers, gave her a bath and put her to bed while Jen toiled away at night school. These were the young crazy days before Jen and I settled down with our husbands, and KK was an adorable light in our bachelorette lives. The connection I have with my now almost 10 year-old niece has always been something I treasure (note: I hope to have this same bond with the more discriminating Rosebud if she ever decides I make the grade).
KK has been involved in quite a few activities over the years, and I am proud to say is a two-time beauty pageant victor among other accomplishments. But my girl is much more than just a pretty face. In recent months, KK has taken to karate like nothing else she has tried before. To know my niece, this idea would instantly bring a smile to your face. KK is the skinniest mini in the world, a relatively tall gal, but appears to weigh all of 10 pounds soaking wet. The karate gi she wore today looked like a parachute, and she had trouble keeping her hard won green belt (fourth level) around her tiny hips.
But you know what? KK might look like a sweet and delicate flower, but she can kick some booty! For reasons that remain unclear, all of the girls in her regular class except she chose not to enroll in the tournament out in Naperville today. There are some reasons I could suggest but that is not my business right now. Thankfully, Max and Jen have no problem allowing their darling daughter to toughen herself up and take a knock now and then. It truly does build character and if I may say, KK apparently took some hard practice shots to the face that left her stunned and red, but she neither quit nor cried.
Instead it was KK’s opponent in the first heat who needed the tissues. My little niece brought the pain. Fine, I may be using a bit of hyperbole here. It was not an ultimate fight or anything and the kids were well padded, but there was definite contact. At one point, KK illegally, but mistakenly, connected with her sparring partner’s face, and I am sure it didn’t tickle. She was not awarded a point for this, but is it sick if I admit it was nearly my proudest moment?
Ultimately, KK took second place in her group, the only girl competing against four boys. Her final opponent, the first place victor, had at least three inches, not to mention 25 pounds on my kid. She held her own amidst the backdrop of the whooping of myself, one of her cousins, Jen, and especially Daddy Max. She was steely and focused. Man did I like what I saw today.
I felt a swelling in my heart as I snapped photos and watched KK receive her rather large 2nd place trophy. But it was the quick victory of her very first heat that set me off in a fit of verklemption that even Jen found surprising. I maintain that she should know by now that Aunt Becky is elated almost to the point of physical pain by her nieces’ triumphs. I reminded her again that they ought to know better than to invite me to these things. I realize I am a tremendous embarassment, but I literally can’t help myself. Once again, watching KK punch little boys on her way to victory, I experienced what has been known since August of this year as the “Westminster Effect.” What can I say Jen? Blame your fabulous daughter.