What The Angels Caught
Monday, October 5, 2009

My little mermaid of the sea. This third girl of mine. She loves all creatures of the planet. She can usually be found in the boat on the bank, studying tadpoles or in the yard, adventuring with her dog or chasing the fluttering butterflies or on her hands and knees studying the worker ants as they make a trail through the long grasses.

She loves to go fishing with her father but the only caveat is the fish have to be gently unhooked and sent back to their home in the sea. She is a creature of the earth, this good and gentle girl. So gentle, I hesitate to chastise her like I do her sisters.

I am a yeller. I have always been one. My older two girls are not bothered by my letting off steam through my risen voice. They know that once I get it out, all anger is gone. My yelling therapy. But, this one, this sweet lovely girl only needs a strict word spoken and she is broken. Too gentle for loud fits of anger. My disappointment is enough to crush her. And so I treat her with the finest of care.

As summer closed, we took some time at the beach. It was a lazy week filled with bike riding and lolling in the waves and sitting at the water's edge watching the days say goodbye. My heart was still mired in sadness from our Odawg's departure. She'd been in college for only two weeks and there was still a shroud of emptiness, of missing her. Victoria is not a huge lover of the beach and with her ivory skin, I never push her to live her days in the sun, so it was often my youngest and I enjoying the splendor of the sea and the sun setting on the horizon.

In the evenings, the Hubby would join us after a long day's work. He caught us one day, as we floated in the warmth of the Gulf tides, watching the sun paint the sky.

This is as close as I come, Internet. The one and only picture you will see of me in a bathing suit, unless, that Freaky Friday thing I've been hoping for comes true and I wake up with the body of Gwen Stefani, then I will ONLY put up pictures of me in a bikini-grocery shopping, housework, car pooling, dental visits...all in a bikini.

And as she and I let the soft lull of the waves wash over us, I realized, this will be the way of things more and more. This girl and I, the last daughter to spend her days with me before she goes.

What enchanting company. A mother could not ask for more.

She is every bit the third child, a quiet, sweet girl who never wants to be a bother. She has always been that way, as if she knew, from day one, where her role lay. A family already full of life would need her to tow the line, to never cause trouble. She was plunked into the baby carrier, strapped against my chest as I volunteered at school from the ripe old age of six days. Never having the privilege of uninterrupted scheduled naps, she learned to sleep on the run, in the car as we chauffeured her sisters to and from school and all their activities. In the stroller, in my arms, wherever she got the opportunity, she would grab a few winks. 

She honed her skills quite well. 

When the O-Dawg performed at the high school football games, we would attend every game. As the night wore on and the hour grew late, my Julia would fall asleep in her father's arms in the middle of the game as we sat there next to the blaring drums and horns of the school band, a sound so deafening we had to shout to hear each other. She snoozed peacefully through stadium renditions of the White Stripes, "Seven Army Nation" and Gary Glitter's "Rock and Roll Part II." 

Here's a True Story to demonstrate her sleep worthiness: Once, we were on our way back from the grocery store, all my daughters, still little girls, toddlers and babies. Somewhere along the way, in the rush of young motherhood, the baby's car seat had not been strapped down. It was a terrible oversight. As we rounded the bend to take us home, I heard a thump and the two bigger girls squealed from their assigned car seats, "The baby's on the floor!" 

I took a quick peek over my shoulder and to my horror, saw my youngest child, my little baby, face down on the floor of our minivan. And yes, there was a point in my life I drove a minivan. 

Those were dark days, Internet.

I quickly pulled off to the side of the road and jumped out of my car, fearing the worst. There was nothing but silence coming from the overturned car seat. 

I yanked the door open, swept up the car seat up and was met to my shock with....a sleeping baby.

She slept through the force of being catapulted onto the ground, face down and never knew a minute of it, dreaming through it all. 

This is her way of things. She is a pleaser, a girl who just wants to make life easier for me. 

And she has never caused a bit of trouble, except for that one time.... 

July 3rd, 2006, I was in my typical early morning manic routine. I'd already worked out, come back to the house, was in frenetic tidying up mode while multi-tasking, talking to Debbie on the phone. My little Julia was the first of her sisters up and I had given her the task of going upstairs and nudging her sisters into wakefulness.

Julia had in her hands a prize possession, a twenty dollar bill someone had given her as a gift for something, I don't know remember for what, too many years have sandwiched themselves between me and that day. 

She went upstairs as she was told, as she always did. I continued to clean and talk. A few minutes later I saw the twenty dollar bill flutter down from the ceiling. 

I will stop the story right here to tell you, Internet, that my ceiling at the top of the staircase is 26 feet up in the air. A long way down to the ground. 

I stood there, chatting, straightening up the room that overlooks the foyer and noting the curious swirling descent of a twenty dollar bill flutter from the top of the staircase. 

I really didn't think about it. I just stopped to notice its out-of-context descent, money floating from out of nowhere. Barely a blip on my radar screen. It didn't mean much until....

A few seconds later, Julia followed it. 

I watched my little girl fall from the sky. 

Like the worst nightmare of my life. It took me a second to realize it had really happened. This little creature, her brown curls flowing beautifully behind her, plummeted down as if she was merely sailing through the air in flight. I watched her crash through a chair and land with the most sickening thud and then horrifying bounce I will ever know. 

I am scarred forever from the image of that moment, a moment that will always whisper to me that nothing can ever be taken for granted, not the routine goodbye kisses in the morning that we give each other, not the moments I spend listening to her little girl prattle, small pieces of conversation that are hugely important to her in her little life, not the moments I should spend lingering over each of their young lives without getting caught up in the rush of everyday. 

I let out a primal, anguished scream of horror, the kind I hope to never know again as I threw the phone down in my haste to get to the crumpled heap that was my littlest one, there on the wooden floor of my foyer. 

Later, Debbie told me she thought I had found a snake in my house. And as you know, I am not a girl afraid of creepy crawly things. 

I am afraid of little girls falling from the sky.

It is the stuff of my nightmares.

We rushed her to the hospital where Debbie, who took over all of the functioning abilities I was no longer capable of, filled out the paperwork while my girl and I were carted away inside to where the very capable trauma team took over.

She was conscious, a good sign and able to move her limbs, a very good sign. 

In the blink of an eye, various fluids were drawn and an IV was inserted.

And in that one eternal space of my life, she finally let out a cry, a sound so beautiful to my ears, a sound I wasn't sure I'd ever hear again. Up until the needle in her vein, she had been in a dull haze, unable to really register what was going on around her. 

My Hubby made it around that time, as pale and wide eyed as I was, both of us waiting, the balance of our child's life, there in those moments. 

The doctor stood over her and gently spoke to us of possible spleen, lung and kidney damage. Her eight year old body, all perfect before this day, was now in questionable peril.

Tests were administered, vital signs taken, and a body scan was ordered. I stood next to her in my leather apron and smiled cheerfully, giving the thumbs up every time my little girl, strapped to a headboard came rolling out of the machinery on some sort of conveyor like belt. And when the belt rolled her back in, away from my view, I buried my head in my hands and prayed desperately for her to be whole, to make all of this go away.

After every part of her was tested and examined, she was declared, in short, a miracle. Her only injuries were a mighty lump on her head and a bruised kidney that only needed time to heal.

Her only time in life she was a bother, a flight from the sky. She told me later, after her memory returned, (She does not remember landing. She only remembers the fall and nothing afterwards.) that she was leaning over the banister watching her money flutter down. She leaned too far and flipped. The flip, my hubby guesses, was what saved her. 

I say No. I say the Grandpa who loved her best, watching from the heavens guarded her fall with his strong, steady hands, knowing that I would be the one forever broken, never able to heal, if my girl had gone to join him and all the angels. 

My Julia told me a few weeks ago, in her hate-to-bother-you way that she was having a little trouble seeing the board at school. 

I made note of her quiet comment and as it goes with me sometimes, it got lost in the shuffle of the thousand and one other things that make up my day. 

It wasn't until we took Victoria to get her learning permit at the driver's license bureau that I was reminded of this. After Victoria peered into the vision goggles and passed her test, Julia stuck her head into the contraption. She said it was fuzzy.

I made an eye appointment for her the next day. 

The eye doctor confirmed she has my eyes. She couldn't see past the giant, first row of letters. I could have caught flies with my open mouth as I watched her struggle with the letters, erroneously identifying every one. How long had she been like this? How long had she not wanted to be a bother?

I let her pick out any pair of glasses her little heart desired and she picked a sweet little pair of Euro type glasses that make her look glamorous and sophisticated all at once. 

She spent the next few days, joyously reading every sign on the road, everything that before this, had been out of reach.

I vow to do better by her, my little, gentle mermaid of the sea. Her eyes, her heart, her flesh and bones, her grandest thoughts, her deepest fears are all so very precious to me. I want her to know that. She may be the last in this trio of daughters, but she is always foremost in the center of my world and in all that I have ever done since given birth to these splendid girls. These girls, the very core of my life.

My Little Mermaid of The Sea, how she dances and swirls in my heart. Never, ever to be forgotten.

Today's Must Have Download: The brilliant Don Henley's, "Annabel." Don Henley is renowned as a prolific, talented songwriter and singer, one of the masterminds behind the Eagles. But, Don is also known for his surly demeanor and his downright hatefulness, or so it seems sometimes for the human race.

"Annabel" is a love song for his baby girl. A beautiful, sweet anthem of a man in the throes of insurmountable love for his daughter. How I love the quiet beauty of this song, especially coming from a man so hardened by life. "I watch you sleeping, my weary heart rises up on wings. I hear your laughter, something deep down inside me sings." 

Beauty, indeed. For my gentlest girl. For my Julia. 

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