I helped her slip off her dance shoes and her sparkly green tutu.
We were in the cafeteria after her big Christmas dance recital. My brother and sister-in-law were devastated they couldn't go and asked if I could take her and try to make it special.
"Aunt Hallie, chase me!"
She was so happy and giggly after the excitement of the night.
I dropped her jacket and start running after her, weaving between chairs.
She quickly realized the floor was too slippery for her tights and slipped.
I ran over to see she had hit her toe on a chair leg. She looked up at me and started to cry. I lean down to grab her toe and give it a hug and kiss.
"Len, you have to be careful. This is exactly how I broke my nose when I was your age. I was running in a cafeteria just like this and slipped." The parallels between our personalities at the age of five is uncanny.
She sniffed her nose and wiped her tears. "You did?"
"Yeah, feel my nose."
She takes her hand and runs it along the bump on my nose. "Oh my gosh. It's like driving up a hill."
That's my niece. Free. Spunky. Fearless.
We gathered her clothes and flower bouquets and walked to the car.
I let her hold my phone so she could look at the map and act like she was giving me directions home.
I don't know if I know what unconditional love feels like because I'm not a mom, but if I had to guess I think it would be very similar to that.