It is true that the pain of childbirth is dulled in memory. The intensity of bringing life into the world is easily forgotten in the wash of all the days that come after. The zombie-like first few months, where newborn babies know only need, no matter the hour or how little sleep their parents are getting. The first laugh, a sound so sweet, it has undone parents since time began. The first tooth, the first word, the first step. It goes by at the speed of light because you are forever in the midst of all the beginnings, the every day of diapers, and nursing, and learning to walk and potty training. And preschool is here. Hurry up quick, or you'll miss the bus for kindergarten. And here she goes, make another mark on the doorpost, she's grown 3 inches this year. And now, it's soccer practice and slumber parties and she announces that she doesn't play with Barbies anymore. And now, now she wants to straighten her hair instead of pig-tails. And you drop her off at high school. And you're hoping, that just for a second, she'll turn around and wave to you as your heart breaks, watching your brave young lady walk into the mix of teenagers like she's really cool about the whole thing when you know the real truth. And as you hold your breath, she turns and gives you that little wave. And you smile bravely, seeing the little all-in-pink princess who didn't want to let go of your hand that first day of kindergarten. And now, you're holding your breath in quite a different way as you grip the dashboard white-knuckled as she commands the streets, a little too close to the car in front of her. And now she drives on her own and slips in and out of your life as you find yourself constantly saying, "When is she ever coming home?" And then she is there, so, so beautiful, in her formal prom dress with her hair swept up off her swan-like neck, her confidence and beauty so glorious, more beautiful than you would have ever thought possible on that early morning, when you first held that squalling, slick, 8-pound baby. The pain of childbirth is forgotten after all this time, but sometimes so are the moments. It is only when you are surrounded by the newest babies that you remember. My nieces,Lena and Mallory are here. They are lovely reminders of who we once were, our family filled with the light of three little girls. And I find myself with my two, new tiny loves, reliving those days of sweet, simple times.
Mallory is walking, tentative, slow, often faltering steps, hands in the air to steady herself, a tiny furrowed brow of concentration. And, as she falls into open arms waiting to catch her, she beams in pride as we all applaud her monumental accomplishment. I had forgotten how exciting it is to witness such a pivotal beginning of a child's life.
Or just how sweet a moment it is, to sit there utterly entranced as she waves to you, her wave still backwards, waving to herself. But not really, as she smiles her gummy grin, her two little teeth peeking out as her wave turns into an open hand, reaching. Her grip is strong as she encircles my finger in her fist, smiling at me, as if to say, "You're mine now." But, what she doesn't realize is, I have been, since the day I first gazed into her sweet brown eyes.
She is a joy to watch as she eats her first birthday cake, her "NUM-NUM-NUM", saying it all, fistfuls of sugary blue frosting cramming into her mouth, covering her tender little face in confection. Looking at all of us in surprise, as if she is thinking, "Were you all aware that there was something this delicious on this planet and if so, why am I just getting it now?" And then there is Lena.
Lena is why I used to tell my girls, "I want you to stay three. Don't you get any older." She is an enchanting bundle of preciousness, so full of little girl love and sweetness and secrets, "Come here, I want to tell you something." As you bend down, she whispers things in your ear things like, "I love you, Aunt Joann and your favorite color is green." Green has been assigned to me. Lena assigns people their favorite colors and never forgets. She reminds us of this on a regular basis. Lena has found no bad in the world, yet. Her life is filled with goodness and Disney Princesses and Once Upon A Times. It is why she only loves. She loves her baby sister, her cousin's collection of nesting dolls, her chocolate milk, Bella the dog, her complete Minnie Mouse wardrobe and accessories, her Uncle Bill, her On-Demand Noggin, her Daddy, her cousins, her Mommy...most importantly, her Mommy. I've shed a few tears this week, knowing that my days with my girls have flown by. I have no idea how we've already come to this place. My girls were Lena and Mallory, I swear, just yesterday. My beautiful Victoria graduates this week from the school she has attended for the last eight years or more like eight minutes. On Friday, her class marched triumphantly through the halls for the last time. The entire school lined the hallways wildly cheering them on. I watched my daughter and her classmates, young ladies and men, giddy with excitement and accomplishment, ready for high school and I saw a little girl with bangs and missing teeth who ran into her first grade classroom, excited to begin the day, the year, the life. I thought my heart would break right there in that hallway as I tried to hold my video camera steady, watching a lovely young woman walk out the door, taking new steps farther and farther away. As she should. As she should. It doesn't make it any easier. But, as I fight with my emotions this week, I realize that even through the goodbyes, it still stays the same. We went out to dinner with Lena and Mallory's parents. A well needed break for them, a now regular part of our life, thanks to kids who can feed and put themselves to bed. When we arrived home, the babies were all in bed. The big girls were up, baking cookies and as always filled with chatter, spilling over the brim with words, talking over each other. They'd watched a scary TV show, one of their favorites, something with mysteries and who-done-its, mixed up with some science fiction. O-Dawg was a bit freaked because someone in the show had no eyes. She's always been weird about that. As a toddler, whenever the blind girl would show up on Barney, O-Dawg would run out of the room screaming.
I would think, "Great. I'm raising a blind bigot."
She doesn't race out of the room screaming, anymore when she encounters blindness, thank Heavens. But, she is still terrified of eyeless people and the blind. I didn't raise her to be this way. I can't explain it. Just like, I can't explain why she puts vinegar on everything she eats or why she's fascinated with primordial dwarfs or why we had to finally break down and put the navigational system in her car so she could find her way home from school. We stopped trying to figure her out a long time ago. But, the eyeless person had her pretty freaked out. We talked about it for a few minutes before we all said our goodnights. And as The Hubby and I were just drifting off, there was a voice, sounding uncannily like a little girl. O-Dawg, standing above us, with the plea, "Can I sleep in here with you? I'm scared." Our 18-year old, pulls up my chaise, wedging it tightly against my side of the bed and tucks herself in with a soft, "Goodnight." The Hubby and I shake our heads in slight disbelief and I look over at her, her legs hanging off the edge, the dog, inexplicably spooning her.
Life goes by in seconds. Little girls in ruffly dresses turn into swan-like beauties overnight. But, some things stay the same. Girls on the edge of grown-up, still crawl into their parents' bed, when the darkness is too big for them to conquer on their own. It gives me a small bit of comfort. No matter what, as they go on their way, they are mine, by a cord so strong, so primal, nothing can ever sever it. They will always be mine. I see that when I look at Mallory and Lena. I see that in the different stages of my own daughters' lives. I see that as the young lady, falling off the chaise next to me, sleeps peacefully with a smile on her face, knowing that she and I will always be together. No matter what. No matter what. Today's DOO ITT Download: (OK, Ok, I'll stop with the Doo Itt. I just had to write it one more time.) Van Morrison's "Tupelo Honey." This is in my top ten favorite songs of all time. I've been saving up for a special post. This'll do.
"She's as sweet as Tupelo Honey. She's an angel of the first degree. She's as sweet as Tupelo Honey, just like honey, baby, from the bee." For all my little girls.