She came into the world with eyes wide open. They put her up on me and instantly I was overwhelmed, in part because I was just a girl myself but there was more to it than that. There was weight in the realization that indeed she was an entity all her own. After those long months of her being within, the without was a full-blown operation of shock and awe.
That happened twenty-two light as a feather years ago. Blurry as a high-speed train. Days so long but time so short years ago.
And then one night in May in a hospital in Oregon I stood aside as she brought forth her own little game changer. Once removed from the contractions and labor and grit I was gifted with perspective–an aerial view of all that promise tangled up in those unsuspecting lives.
I didn’t send a birthday card because I’ve always believed that my words–or yours–are better than the ones Hallmark prints on overpriced paper. I wrote a note that I hoped would matter to her. I confessed that when she was in diapers and tantrums and tears there were days I wished away. I didn’t heed the wise words of those who’d gone before and swore it would pass in an eye’s blink. There were nights when she would sneak down the hall past bedtime right after I finally got two sisters to sleep and had only just considered an exhale. She’d ask if we could snuggle and I cry even as I write this because I could swear she saw me wilt just a little at the thought of pouring out of an already fume-y tank. There were times I did it begrudgingly–motivated only by the guilt of knowing she craved her fair share of time. All day she waited patiently and helped in ways she could with the littler two. This–she believed–was her claim to stake. I cringe at my stupid younger self for not soaking up those tiny moments when the chance was mine.
Cats in The Cradle lyrics haunt me every time.
She lives so far away now that mostly when I see her it’s in pixels, live-action or still. What I wouldn’t give for her to live down the street or around the corner or even the next town over and come barging through the front door on Sunday nights or Wednesday nights or anytime in between. What I wouldn’t give for more of those mundane moments.
She’s neck-deep in The Raising Years now and here’s what I’d say, the gift I’d offer for far-off redemption:
Forget Pinterest parties and Instagram appearances and the dumb sensory exercises to ward off this or that. Just love her always and be generous with your tiny moments. You can forgive yourself a thousand mistakes if always you strive for that.
As she digs in to get a feel for twenty-two this is the seed I’d plant in her heart:
You’re stronger than I ever was. You seek justice. You’re lenient in a way that will serve you well, but headstrong enough for your own good. Still feisty (that’s a good one to hang on to). Resourceful. Willing. You’ve grown into your independence the way I always hoped you would. You see the sunny side when others can’t. Just curious enough. Your plans aren’t copied from someone’s social media feed. You’re not quick to give up.
I love you so much. I miss you. I hope this year opens up like a flower in front of your very eyes. I want nothing more for you than your eternal salvation, joy and success in that order and I will keep on praying it all the year through. Happy Birthday, beautiful girl.