Mike and I don't have family here. Most of our relatives are spread across the Carolinas and Virginia. Before Will, it wasn't that big of a deal. We'd just hop in the car and go when the mood hit us. After Will, we realized the value in having family nearby.
I'm not talking about having built-in babysitters. It's more than that. You know, the really important things like hugs, pinches on the cheeks, doting.
And that's where our dear neighbor comes in. She's been there since the beginning. She's been there through it all.
As soon as Will could talk, he named her Nini. We consider her Will's honorary grandmother. At times, I'd swear they're like best friends. If something exciting happens, Will instantly says "Let's go tell Nini!"
And then there's the food. You know how grandmothers always have a cookie handy? That's Nini. Will walks into her kitchen and heads directly for the cupboard with the sweet treats and Nini always pulls out the most delicious goodies.
Of course, like most grandmothers, Nini can cook up a storm. We'll get a call in the morning telling us there are fresh homemade biscuits waiting for us. There are "grownup" biscuits for Mike and me and "baby" biscuits for Will. There are the heart-shaped sugar cookies for Valentine's Day and her banana pudding.
The first stop on Will's first day of kindergarten was Nini's house. He had to tell her everything that was packed in his lunchbox. She "oohed" and "ahhhed" and smothered him with hugs and watched us as we walked down the street.
Nini was there when we brought Will home from the hospital. She's been there for each birthday. This year, we celebrated her 94th birthday ... and we hope to celebrate many more.
We are blessed beyond measure to have her in our lives. So, while we may not have our immediate family here, we have our Nini who, in every sense of the word, is family.
Julia is a reporter for WRAL-TV and the mother of a kindergartner. She writes monthly for Go Ask Mom.