Poke poke pickle, she demands, and I am glad to oblige. Poke at her belly, tickle around her neck, the two of us laughing. Poke poke tickle.

The house is empty, one table, two mattresses, and a porta-crib for the punklin. They are moving to the West Coast and I am trying to get as much of my niece as I can. One more week and they’ll be gone. I can’t explain it to her, it’s beyond the realm of her toddler consciousness. I am going to miss her terribly.

She catches sight of my necklace and sits up abruptly. Bracelet, where bracelet? She pushes up my sleeves and tries to yank things off my wrists.

I WANNA WATCH.
Can you say please?
WANNA WATCH.

I give in, like I always do, and unclasp my watch for her.
Now RING.
I hand over the ring and she slides it onto her thumb, the same place I wear it. It’s big enough for three of her fingers, and the watch could fit around her thighs, but she struts around displaying my hardware, pleased as punch.

Taking me by surprise, she turns to accost me with the question I am always asking: Who’s the punk-doodle? I laugh and grab her in a hug, YOU’RE THE PUNK-DOODLE!.
I am going to miss her so bad.

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