Not all kindergartens can write their names, let alone, write a little book. When my 5-year-old niece, Leanna, told me one night that she will write a book for me, I answered with my usual “uh uh”, smiled back at her while giving a nod of approval, and then forgot about everything she said few minutes later. She proceeded to occupy her little corner of the room while I continued to watch the Filipino show on TV.

The hour passed and it was time for her to go to bed. She came to me and whispered on my ear that I should not attempt to peek on what she left on the table. I glanced at her desk and saw a huge book that she put on top of pieces of paper to keep them in place. I said “I won’t.” We said our goodnights.

Truth was, I did entertain the thought of flipping the book and checking the papers underneath. However, I did not want to break the promise I made to Leanna. Besides, if indeed she was making a book, it could just be some cryptic scribblings kids do all the time. You know, those periodic pieces of art that kids show to you and the obligatory “good job” is almost always your immediate response regardless of how Greek the arts look to you.

The following morning when she woke up, with hair still ruffled, Leanna proceeded immediately to her desk and continued her project. I told her that she better finish it before I go back to New Mexico the next day.

I spent a few days of my Christmas holidays with my sister and her family in Illinois. In that short visit, I made sure I spent some quality time with Leanna and her younger brother Jonathan since I only see them at least once a year. So I brought them to the children’s museum where they climbed up winding stairs, crawled into mazes, slid through tubes, and even trapezed from benches to benches.

Leanna never failed to say how she appreciated things I did for, shared with, and bought for her and Jonathan.

The morning of the day of my flight back to New Mexico, Leanna sat beside me. She then started to giggle and after a minute or two, handed me her finished project. It was an 8-page booklet that she made in less than two days!

“This is for you, tito (uncle) Ec-ec (my nickname),” Leanna said. “I hope you’ll like it.”

The moment I read the cover page, I was teary-eyed.  My 5-year-old niece wrote her first story book and it was for me!

From Leanna, to Tito EcEc.

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A niece-ly love.

“I love you, your so handsome and we love you, we miss you tito Ecec.”
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She easily remembers people.

Leanna has met my former housemate, Chris, three times when I used to live in South Dakota.  She misses me, Chris, and, yes, Spider Man!
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This melts my heart.

“Thank you for shopping toys for me and Jonathan.”
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 A very appreciative girl.

I bought this word-guessing game, where you place a card on a headband and you guess the word with clues from friends before the timer runs out.  She thanked me for it.
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Her favorite Aunt Annie’s pretzel.

My sister told me Leanna and Jonathan will always ask for this pretzel every time they are in the mall.
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I am her blessing and my heart melted more.

I never thought she could even write in Filipino! “Kaya ngayong Pasko, ang blessings koy kayo, thank you thank you, ang babait ninyo.”  This was the Christmas anthem of a Filipino TV station, ABS-CBN, that she often heard whenever my sister watched Filipino TV shows.  The song translates to “So this Christmas, you are my blessings, thank you, thank you, you are so kind.”
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Even the couch?

One time, I moved one of the couches to a new place to free some space.  She thanked me for it.
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And more love.
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She never gets tired writing about it.
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For the Christmas gifts.

She thanked me for the presents.
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There’s always Elsa.

When she ran out of thank you ideas, happy Elsa (from the movie Frozen) saved a page.
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And of course, there’s Anna.

Elsa’s sister, Anna, also saved a page.  Leanna has been a Frozen fan.  She has memorized the songs of the movie and even sang the undying anthem “Let it go” in her school’s talent show.  (Note: Anna looked evil-y in here.)
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Missing me again.

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Rainbow lines.

She said a rainbow has to be in it.
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More love and thank you.

She finished the last page with another “I love you” and another “Thank you”.
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But that’s not it!

When I was ready to get into the car and head to the airport, Leanna handed me one last paper. Written on it was a question if I liked the notes and the drawings she did for me. “Of course, big sweet girl, of course. I love it very much,” I said and then kissed her farewell. “I will see you next time in New Mexico, when you come and visit me.” She smiled.
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I love Leanna (and Jonathan) to the max!

Watch: This is Leanna when she was 4 years old telling the story of The Gingerbread Man.

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