Ever notice how love can completely color your opinion of something?

A guy tells you he loves the line of your neck?

You watch a movie on a first date starring an actor you had always hated?

Phil Collins suddenly becomes the most profound lyricist?

I’ve never disliked my name, granted, I always yearned for nicknames in high school and college. The traditional “Mandy” being something I couldn’t abide as I had know a girl growing up who went by Mandy and who was mean through and through. I had the occasional nickname, but nothing that stuck. I don’t have a – [email protected] or [email protected](I realize those are totally lame, but as I said, I never had a nickname).

Avery has started doing something that has me feeling like the day my parents chose to call Amanda was the day they gave me the greatest gift of my life. Each night as I lower myself into Avery’s toddler bed, a sight which Sean has told me on more than one occasion is not pleasant to watch, she leans back and waits eagerly.

“You cuddle with me? You cuddle with Ave?”

After attempting to muffle a grunt and then trying to keep the panting from exertion to a minimum I say, “Yes, sweetie, mama is coming to cuddle with Ave.”

She waits, and after I have settled in she puts one hand on my cheek, the crisp, clean scent of Aveeno baby wash surrounds me and sends me into a trance. Bubbles, baby skin, the soft sound of water lapping at the bath tub’s edge seems to drift past my ear and then she says, “You ‘Manda? You my ‘Manda?”

Her eyes dance, searching my face and she smiles as I say, “Of course, baby, I’m your ‘Manda,” and she responds with a giggle, “I’m not your baby, I’m your Ave and you my ‘Manda. Ave’s ‘Manda.”

It is in these moments when I find myself perfectly nested in the core of the memories that will sustain me for the rest of my life.

So, to my parents, I say, “Thanks for making me your ‘Manda, so that I could grow into being Ave’s ‘Manda.”