Winning the Title
Here is an excerpt:
At 2 lbs 3 oz, Ilyse had already acquired the name “wild woman.” Born prematurely with Down Syndrome, Ilyse showed spunk and grit and the intensive care unit nurses acknowledged this with a nickname. Later, as a competitor in Special Olympics, Ilyse’s uncanny ability to capture the limelight led to her being called “Hollywood”. But the honorific that has had the greatest transformative effect on Ilyse is that of “Auntie.”
At the age of nineteen, Ilyse drove with my parents overnight to meet their new granddaughter. For Ilyse and my infant daughter Miriam it was love at first sight. Ilyse felt a new sense of pride in her status as an Aunt. Here was a little being she could cuddle, care for, and, as she informed us immediately, someone who she could “feed chocolate milk.”
Ilyse was always the baby of the family. She is thirteen years younger than me, and eleven years younger than our cousins. To add to that, at four feet tall, Ilyse has always looked young. My mom often says that Ilyse’s cuteness is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because people are mostly kind to her; a curse when peers and adults who want to offer help derail our family’s attempt to encourage Ilyse towards independence. But a baby niece and a sleep-deprived sister who is now a new mom genuinely need help. And Ilyse was happy to support me in the wonder of caring for an infant.