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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

My unique pet: A personalized mini real-life Barbie doll

Sunny Cao
Me and my niece chilling together on June 28

One thing that I definitely didn’t expect to get out of my older sister’s marriage was to be promoted to the official status of “aunt.” Growing up, I was the baby of the family, and our  13-year age gap made for an interesting double mom experience growing up. The few pictures I have of my childhood self include my sister dressing me up in ridiculous trinkets and clothes, and baby me having a confused look on my face. 

Twelve years later when my sister had her first daughter and spent a brief summer at our house before moving to China, it was my time for revenge. After my niece grew older and finished that terrible newborn cry, eat, sleep and repeat phase, she became troublesome for her parents, but definitely more fun for me. 

The summer of 2020, when my niece was still a crawling baby, my sister and my sister’s family left their home in China and stayed at my house for the entire summer. I had the honor of watching my niece grow up, especially as the pandemic created more bonding experiences. 

As my niece started crawling, her little thump thump crawls on the floor followed everyone around like a little dog. As someone who has never had a pet, I loved the constant attention that she needed. Whenever her parents were busy, they would just plop her in my room where she would play around on my bed and flounce around while I did homework. 

Once, I tried to keep her from falling off my bed because of how much she was moving, so I started taking some creative liberties with her. I took a scarf she had been playing with and tied it around her head like a headscarf. I put socks on her hands, little clips that I had found in her hair and a long shell necklace around her neck. At the end of the hour, I emerged from my room victorious and presented my decorative creation to my family. My sister objected playfully, and the rest of my family was good natured about it. 

During her stay at our house, our family even got her a little kiddie’s playpen as a timeout zone. And between the crawling and babbling in her little playpen, it was pretty similar to having a dog or cat following me around everyday. 

All jokes aside, whenever my sister is able to bring her family to the U.S. for the summer, the time I have spent with her so far have been completely endearing. My niece’s snarky remarks and brutal honesty always have the most comedic timing. I get to pamper her, dress her in her clothes, braid her hair, help her brush her teeth and shower.

Watching her be a kid makes me miss my own short-lived naive childhood too, and I live vicariously through her every giggle and laugh. Having loved dolls of all kinds as a kid, I now get to have a real life, personalized, snarky barbie doll of my own when I visit my sister. 

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