Special Guest Post: Thank U (Niece)
Thoughts on finding someone you never knew you were missing
Well, hello, there. I don’t usually introduce my Wednesday essays, but as this essay isn’t mine, I thought I’d open with a note.
Today’s Note comes from, a wonderful writer and human who I met last year during a program called Substack Grow. I’ve always loved the way she puts words together, and I jumped at the opportunity to share guest posts this fall. I hope you enjoy this rumination on how finding a relative she didn’t know existed shaped her in unexpected ways.
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I became an aunt the way most women do: at the height of lockdown in the midst of a global pandemic, I connected with my long-lost German half-brother. His daughter, Luisa, came as part of an Ancestry.com package deal. Three short years later, I sometimes forget her presence in my life hasn’t always been a given — an assertion she’d undoubtedly refute, citing as evidence the frequency with which I recount our origin story to Uber drivers, nail technicians, or whoever else cares to listen.
“My father was stationed in Germany during the Vietnam war, and—”
Do I feel compelled to brag on my niece — so compelled to share the story of how we found each other — in part because her mere existence feels like a kind of relief wrapped in a miracle? For every heartbreak or non-traditional life decision I feel the need to hide, a new photoshoot, adolescent accolade or TikTok video graces our international family chat.
She mercifully distracts from the question of whether I’ll ever embrace motherhood myself — buys me time on the fence of uncertainty with regards to what I want apart from fodder, stage time and prose.
When Luisa showed up in our lives she delighted at the fact I didn’t have children — she could be the princess of the family.
I delighted at the same.
I’m an only child whose own mother has loved me with a love both self-deprecating and self-effacing. She jokes how she’s a Duke graduate with nothing to show for it; she fails to mention how she poured every ounce of her English degree into my childhood bedtime stories — how she still, three decades later, writes eloquent prose poems to capture whatever off-handed details I’ve shared about a recent interaction, date, or performance.
She reckons with her own insecurities by putting me on display.
Sometimes I’ve thought, by sidestepping motherhood, I might trick life in a way she failed to.
Now, Luisa’s presence in my life forces me to reckon with the idea — and I’m sure there’s a German expression for this somewhere — time will catch up to me just the same.
I’m both flattered when strangers tell me they see the resemblance between my niece and me and at times unsettled by close parallels in our life experience and thought patterns. (“Should I worry,” Luisa asks, “if he only texts two heart emojis instead of three?”)
Is modern love really no different at 15 from 37?
More than once I’ve wondered why a younger man has been watching me so intently from across the room only to realize, upon a double take, his eyes were fixated on her.
“The hardest part of getting older,” Mom says, “is men don’t whistle at you on the sidewalk.”
These are all just words, of course.
My niece has snapped so beautifully into the fabric of my life I often marvel at the lottery I struck: here is an exceptionally beautiful child replete with multilingual skills and precocious wisdom. She inherited my grandmother’s cheekbones and my father’s interest in the human mind and has opened my heart in a way I imagine might feel akin to a mother’s love: a mix of awe, wonder, and constant surprise.
On TikTok, she sends me a video of a woman regaling her nieces with a bedtime story to the tune of Ariana Grande’s “Thank U, Next.”
“Life is not a pony farm,” she tells me. “But at least you’ve had handsome boyfriends.”
Alicia is a former cocktail waitress, certified bra-fitter, once-upon-a-time professional matchmaker and D-list reality TV talent. It took her awhile to figure out this means she’s a writer. You can find her at. Check out her other work and subscribe to read more!