A Letter To My Girl
Monday, June 21, 2010

Dearest Olivia,

I'm so glad I made the impulsive decision to jump in your car Saturday night as we 
were leaving Grandma's house to head home. 

My car was piled high with horse-sized dogs and your sisters and a few of your girl 
cousins. And of course, your 15-year old sister at the wheel of my car. It is a well 
known fact in our family, that your father is the better driving instructor. 

Oh, how I hate that part of parenting. I would rather change thousands of diapers again 
than sit in the passenger seat while you girls learn to navigate the streets behind the wheel 
of a hulking, tons of steel and glass machine. 

Your dad is patient and calm with you girls and your driving, while my Type A self, 
screams over BRAKING and SLOWING DOWN and STAYING IN YOUR LANE. 

He has faith in you girls' ability to conquer the world. He lets you figure it out on your own, 
while I rant and rave and want to do it all for you.

Did I ever tell you about the time we learned there would be a you? 

It was a usual day for me. A Friday. My job at the bank was in the big city and we lived in 
the middle of nowhere, just a dull clump of a rural town with nothing much, but orange groves, 
an ugly strip mall and one mediocre restaurant. My commute was long and so I was up before 
the dawn every day for that ungodly trek to the city. 

On that Friday, I woke up and immediately reached for the pregnancy test, for no other reason 
than habit. There was no joy. There was no nervousness. It was just another thing on the list 
that morning. 

I'd gone past the thrill of anticipation, long, long before this day. 

We'd been trying to have a baby for quite some time. We were still in the testing stages of why. 
Why had we not been able to procreate, the most important and basic function of humans?

And in that unendurable stretch of time, I never got used to the constant question from well 
meaning folks, "When are you guys ever going to have a baby?" 

Because, I had no answers. There was only the why, with a giant, frustrating question mark 
behind it. 

On this ordinary Friday, the routine pregnancy test, in all honesty, was because I had big plans 
for happy hour with some of my friends. Our happy hours usually lasted well into the night, 
and I needed to just be sure so I wouldn't gestate a fetal alcohol syndrome baby.

I had done this so many times before, with all my hope focused on that pregnancy stick. There 
was no hope left in me.

I did my business and laid it on the counter, so I could go about getting ready. I didn't even set 
the timer to look at the results. The crushing disappointment of a negative result had ended long 
before this day. It was now just resignation. 

When I finally went back in the bathroom to check on things, I took a step back in complete 
disbelief. 

I thought to myself, "Remember this moment forever."

2 pink lines. 2 pink lines telling me that from that moment on, life would be decided by a 
completely different measure. 

It only took me a second to scream and race to the bedroom where your father lay, still sound 
asleep. 

It must be awfully jarring to be roused from your dreams by a screaming wife who is holding a 
pee stick so close in front of your face, you can't make out what you're even actually looking at. 

But, even with that, I did not expect his reaction. 

Subdued would be an understatement. 

As the words, "We're going to have a baby!" brought him out of the land of dreams, the reality set 
in. A man's reality so very different from what I saw. 

I saw a little bundle that smelled of softness and splendor and the dreams to come. I saw lullabies 
and impossibly tiny shoes and coos and the fulfillment of a baby tucked into the crook of my arm 
in the knowledge that all is well and as it should be in our world. 

He saw responsibility and the hard truth that his career had not yet taken off. He saw a bigger 
house and more insurance and cases of diapers and clothing and college and need. 

Lots and lots of need. 

When I left for work, floating out the door on clouds of joy, he was still in bed staring at the 
ceiling. 

In short, he was freaked out. 

I tried to not let his reaction bother me. He was the one, in fact, who wanted you first, long 
before I saw myself as a mother. I was dancing and laughing at the moon and staying up all 
night and drinking cold vodka and still basking in the headiness of my youth, when he started 
talking about babies and our 30's right around the corner. 

He was the one who convinced me, you were essential to our life, right then, right now.  

I tried not to let his unexpected reaction dampen my joy. And my joy was out of my mind 
delirium. 

My sister said to me the other day that she thinks I feel things harder than the average soul. 
And she sees that as both a blessing and a curse. And she's right. Sadness and hurt and joy 
and laughter bleed through my fingertips. I am always this walking open wound of sensibilities. 

And I was feeling this, this one precious, extraordinary thing, like nothing else in my life. 

We went on, announcing it to everyone, me—dancing and shouting, him—quiet and taciturn. 

And then there was the day I woke up to blood. 

And everything changed. 

My elation capsized into a fit of despair. Calls were made. An ultrasound was ordered. And 
we were on our way to the hospital, both of us sick with worry. 

I lay there on that cold, hard surface in the darkened room, praying like I have never prayed 
in my life, your father at my side, still quiet, still keeping his worry about the days to come 
to himself. 

And then the tech said, "Well hello there, little peanut. There you are! Say hello to your mom 
and dad."

And your tiny image flooded that dark room with a light of such magnitude, the world at that 
moment was ablaze for us. You were here. You were safe. You were our little baby. Just a tiny 
blip on a screen, but healthy and whole, growing and biding your time before you made your 
grand entrance into our lives, forever changing the scope of our world as we knew it. 

Your father, this man who'd kept his joy under a tight lock, leapt from the stool and pressed 
his face to the screen and exclaimed, "That's our baby! Look, look, that's our baby! WE 
ARE GOING TO HAVE A BABY!"

If he could have danced a jig, he would of. But the thing is, he is a white man and rhythm is 
not his strongest suit. 

We left the hospital with the printed-out image of your tiny peanut self. Your dad stopping 
every stranger on the way out, to proudly show off his baby. His grin the whole ride home, 
never left his face and before I knew it, he had swung into the drugstore and said to me with 
that stupid, silly grin, "I'll be right back." 

Your image, your first portrait still clutched tightly in his hand. 

He was back in no time. And he sat in that car and opened up his plastic bag, pulling out a 
frame, just the perfect size for that picture, the picture of his child, the picture of his dreams 
come true. He assembled it right there in the car. And he brought that picture to work with him 
the next day, showing you off to everyone who walked past his desk and some who were 
dragged there. 

That was the moment your father became your daddy.

And so from that moment to this, we are here, in your car driving along, in what seems like 
seconds of time. 

We drive down the road of this country town, a town far different than your first. This one is 
still small, still rural, but it holds a quiet charm, a village of families who've grown up and 
stayed here, the soul behind a true small town. Your dad built us this house here, because he 
wanted you and your sisters to have a big yard and a home to fill up with your friends. He 
wanted to give you girls a childhood you would look back on and cherish.

And as we drive, the night sky above us is black and soft as velvet and the stars shine down, 
ethereally lighting our way, far better than any street light. 

And you play your music loud, just like me. And I can't chastise you for this because I do 
the same thing. 

And as we listen to your collection of tunes, I am proud of your tastes. Your music is 
eclectic and oftentimes off-the-beaten path and funky and never, ever staid. Your new love 
is music from the 1940's and your dad, that man so fraught with worry over finances when 
he found out you were coming has told me he plans on hooking you up with satellite radio, 
so you can enjoy your 1940's music all the time. 

I know your musical tastes are sophisticated because there was no Disney channel or Top 40 
played on our radios when you were growing up. I held the reins over the music that shaped 
your tastes. And we listened to Mary J Blige and Maria Callas and The Clash and Rufus 
Wainwright and Rickie Lee Jones and Johnny Cash and always, always U2. 

And we get to our home, not far from your Grandma's and we turn into our long driveway, 
through the acres of woods leading to our house tucked back in a little pocket of country that 
still makes me feel as if I am living in old Florida. And you park under the grandfather oaks, 
the Spanish moss draped down like lacy charm bracelets hanging from those trees' mighty limbs. 
And our quiet piece of the world is filled with the music from your speakers as the owls and the 
creatures of the forest watch over us. 

Your father calls, and as I knew he would, he is stopping to get everyone ice cream. He wants 
to know our requests and to tell us he will be home after the ice cream run.

I notice the boys next door, our few little houses out here in the woods. There are a bunch of 
them, playing basketball and I hear them calling your name. 

I say to you, "Robbie's calling." 

Robbie, your oldest friend. The boy you have known since the moment he was born. Truly. 
You two have been together since before your sisters were here. Robbie is the son of your 
dad's business partner/other brother.. We have never lived more than 10 houses 
away from each other. And when you two were babies, you in fact lived in a duplex on 
different sides. You were and always have been more like brother and sister. 

And I know without you saying, that you two have missed each other this past year. He is 
18 months younger. But now, he towers over you. And every time you come home, our 
doorbell rings within moments of your arrival and if it doesn't, you find your way to his house.

And you say to me in the car, "I know but I'd rather sit here and listen to music with you. 
Besides, we have to wait for Dad to come home, I don't have a key."

And I say, "I gave you one last week to replace the one you lost."

And you say, "Oh, yeah. But I'd still rather sit here and listen to music with you."

And I am filled with such a grateful, quiet happiness for this moment, for you. 


And you say, "Here, this is my new favorite."

And the iconic swill of Louis Armstrong's trumpet fills the night sky and the smoky Parisian 
strains of "La Vie En Rose" swirls around us. 

I smile and tell you that this is the great Louis Armstrong, one of your grandfather's favorite 
singers. 

And what I don't say, is this undying passion for music you have, came from your grandpa. 
That my brightest childhood memories are of your grandfather and his clear, beautiful voice, 
singing, always singing. Creating this undying love of music in me. I miss him and his songs 
every single day. But, now there is you and you have inherited his passion, too. 

And Louis ends and Billie Holiday begins. And we lay our heads against our seats and sit quietly 
in the blackness surrendering to her sad, silky voice. 

And soon enough, there is a new song and I sit up with excitement and ask you: What is this? 
Who is this? as the familiar strains of one those songs, those songs that fill you with such a thrill 
for days gone by, begins. It is the same song I remember, but it is different. 

It is the Bird and The Bee you tell me. And I say, do you realize they are singing songs from 
my generation? That this, this song is "Rich Girl" by Hall and Oates. A band, who before Daryl 
Hall gave away his soul to pop music, was one of the most glorious duos on the planet and that 
this song, this song is just IT. 

It just is. 

And you tell me then that The Bird and The Bee have an album with all covers of Hall and 
Oates tunes. 

And we sit there in the dark and we sing at the top of our lungs, "You're a rich girl and you've 
gone too far cause you know it don't matter any way."

A song of my generation and now yours, and we sing together into the velvet night and once 
again, I make a mental note to remember this moment. Here in the car with my girl, both of us 
set to fly. You standing on the edge of life, ready to jump in and let it all begin. And me, well 
ahead of you, but still standing on the precipice of a new life, a new day. 

The coming days will be bring big changes for both of us and I am so excited to see where all 
of it will lead. You will leave us when the summer ends and you will go back to the new world 
you've made for yourself, the one you told us the other night gave you the best year of your life. 
And I will be here, still being the mom and wife but maybe now, something a little more. 

And I will miss you so very much. So very much. But, I will be happy you have these songs to 
carry in your heart, the songs of a family passed on, a piece of all that you have left behind. And 
as you go your way and I mine, I will remember this night forever and know that through these 
fleeting years when I had you as my own, we sat under the stars and sang songs and you 
reminded me that we two, will always be together no matter how far our lives take us from each 
other, because you are my girl, my very first little love.  

I love you, dear precious Olivia Kathleen with all my heart.

Mom.

Today's Definite Download: Even though the Bird and The Bee do a magnificent job honoring 
these men and I've already downloaded all their songs, I'm going with Hall and Oate's "Sara 
Smile." Because, no one sings that song like Daryl Hall. 

And there's a reason for that. 

I, of course, watched their Behind The Music special and so I am now an expert on everything 
Hall and Oates. 

Sara Smile was written for Daryl's girlfriend of 30 years, obviously Sara. 

After they got together, Sara and her sister Janna became an essential part of Hall and Oates 
songwriting team, helping pen some of their biggest hits. In the 90's Janna was diagnosed with 
cancer and Daryl and Sara had her move in. She spent her dying days with the two 
of them. On the Behind The Music special, Sara said, her sister's death was just too much for 
them to overcome. Their grief split them apart. And so after 30 years, they parted ways. Sara 
said the worst part of the breakup was the day she was at the grocery store, not really 
paying attention to the canned music overhead, when suddenly Daryl's voice came over the 
speakers and it was "Sara Smile." She had to run out of the grocery store, she was crying 
so hard. 

Isn't that the saddest thing ever?

I had the privilege, once, of standing right up in front of the stage at a private Hall and Oate's 
concert. I was so close to them that at the end of the concert, John Oates handed me his guitar 
pick. (If it had only been Bono.) When Daryl sat down in front of his keyboard, he said, "How 
bout a happy song now." And he started playing, "Sara Smile." I wanted to jump on the stage 
and hug the daylights out of him and say, "I saw Behind The Music, Daryl. I know." And 
then I would have whispered, "Go ahead, cry it out, if you want, right here on my shoulder." 

But, I don't know, it just didn't seem the right thing to do at the time. And I really wanted to hear 
that song. So, there's that . . .

But, for today, "Sara Smile" when it was still a happy song. For my Olivia. 

Baby hair with a woman's eyes
I can feel you watching in the night
All alone with me and 
We're waiting for the sunlight
When I feel cold You warm me
When I feel I can't go on
You come and hold me
It's you and me forever

Sara Smile
Won't you smile a while for me, Sara...

It's you and me forever. 

Photobucket




54 comments:

Gigi said...

Joann, you're killing me softly with your lovely posts. This was a beautiful one for a beautiful girl. I loved the photos. One of my favorite things about being a parent is seeing some of me, my husband and our other family members in my kids...i see that you enjoy that as well...finding bits of your Dad in your daughter. It's the coolest thing ever, isn't it?

lvankuiken said...

Oh, Joann - you made me cry.

This was beautiful, and eloquent and so full of the aching love that we moms have for our children.

Your Olivia is a beautiful girl and she is lucky to have you as a mother.

LisaPie said...

More beautiful than words can express. She's a lucky girl to have both of you as parents!

Ally said...

Your post brought me to tears. What a wonderful post. It's so sweet to hear how you realized you were pregnant, the events, the thoughts you were thinking. Did you keep a journal? How do you remember? Wow. So amazing. And Hall & Oats I love! I love their hit songs.

FourthGradeNothing.com

lori said...

What a beautiful girl and a beautiful post! Those little together moments you just want to remember forever.

Eva Gallant said...

a beautiful tribute to a beautiful daughter!

twelvedaysold said...

Okay, you gotta cut it out with these posts!

My husband and I are waiting a while to have kids. But your description of how your husband acted reminded me so much of my man that I got all teary. Thanks for reminding me why someday I'll be so happy about having babies :)

liz said...

From sadness to elation and back. What a story, Joann! And it is so sweet to hear how incredibly ecstatic your husband turned out to be.

I can't imagine I'd be the driving instructor either.

Noelle said...

Here I sit...with big, huge tears streaming down my cheeks. You have this ability to touch my heart like no one else in the blogosphere...

Thanks Joann...this was beautiful. Truly beautiful.

And now I must go into the mountains and commune with nature for a while.

ProudSister said...

So sweet. I can't wait for those moments with my girls. Beautiful post!

Bossy Betty said...

So wonderful! Your writing brings out so much emotion for me. The tone, the details....and those pictures too.

Do you realize how wonderful it is that you put this down in writing for your daughter? What a gift you have--what a gift you have given her with this post.

Joann--Will you be my mommy?

TesoriTrovati said...

Okay.
I officially cannot read your posts at work. I am either snorting with laughter or I am crying crocodile tears.
My daughter is Olivia Charlotte, and I can imagine writing this to her in less than 10 years. So touching. So great that you can remember this moment in time. So great that you share so much.
And I was at a small concert with Hall and Oates once too. I would not have been able to resist the urge to rush the stage like you (except for the security guys ready to pounce).
Thank you for your inspiration today, Joann. Enjoy the day!
Erin

Sadako said...

Great post. That was so sweet and loved the pics.

blueviolet said...

And that is truly another moment to be remembered forever. Such a beautiful post.

Katie's Dailies said...

I don't know how you manage to write such gorgeous, thoughtful posts every time. But you do.

When we found out we were pregnant with Meghan, I kept the EPT wrapped in a Ziploc bag for the whole 9 months and even after the dr. placed her in my arms, it still hadn't set in that I was pregnant, and now I'm a momma with a beautiful little girl. How did that happen?

Hall & Oates---is there anyone better? They sang me through high school.

Judie said...

Joann, when I grow up I want to be just like you! And so does your daughter.

When I saw my twin grandbabies last year shortly after they were born, and I saw the love and joy in my son's eyes when he held them, I knew I must have done something right in my raising of him.

♥Cari♥ said...

You always manage to pull at my heart strings. You are such a lovely writer and I know that your daughter will treasure this letter to her.

McVal said...

That is so bitter sweet!!! The kids grow up so fast..
My 15 year old told me this morning that one of her closest friends, who is a boy, has told her that he likes her and wants to date her in the future. She likes him too. So they're waiting until she's 16 and has our permission to date... sigh... where are my kleenexs...

Meg at the Members Lounge said...

Your daughter is just gorgeous! I love the Sara Smile story! It's amazing what memories get attached to music.

alicia said...

What a beautifully written post. She is one lucky girl to have you in her life.

Feeling Just Right said...

I have goose-flesh. Noelle was right. You make us cry and then, the next minute, you have us laughing. You're going be such a brilliant author! love it.

p.s. Your daughter is a stunner!

SurferWife said...

Well shit. That was amazing. I almost don't feel worthy of posting a comment on such a beautifully written post.

I love Hall and Oats. They preformed at our county fair a few years back and my son, who was 4 at the time, stood on his seat howling OOOOOOates!!!

Heather said...

What a sweet letter. And your daughter is gorgeous!!

Aging Mommy said...

Lovely post Joann and that first photo is absolutely beautiful.

Erin said...

lovely, moving tribute....and she is gorgeous! what a powerful and special post. you are obviously an amazing mother and she adores you. my mom loved steve winwood and phil collins when i was coming of age and i loathed her for it. ugh!

middle child said...

Guess I'm just in a crying mood today. Your daughter is beautiful. To share the music is most precious. And the man gets ice cream. You lead a blessed life.

Shell said...

I was smiling through your whole post. Such a journey to get your gorgeous daughter and for her to become the person that she is.

Pat said...

You write so eloquently and so full of love. Your daughter is beautiful and you have such a wonderful relationship with her. This was just a beautiful post.

I don't think you'll have any problem selling your book!

Nanny Goats In Panties said...

Oh my God, woman. Wow.

Just, wow.

That is all.

After that beautiful novella/tribute, I got nuthin'.

Cheeseboy said...

What a lovely young lady. If I had a son her age...

I remember both of my wife's pregnancy tests and they were very similar. Although I don't remember which one was which.

Good luck with that driving thing.

The Empress said...

Utterly beautiful.

Just like a picture.

Shelley said...

What a beautiful post for a beautiful girl and her fabulous mom.

Baby Sister said...

That was beautiful. It made me cry. She is a lucky girl. :)

jayayceeblog said...

Your prose is so light and lyrical and evokes such emotion! I always end reading your posts either laughing or crying and sometimes both. That was just beautiful as is your daughter. Picturing your sweet Hubby putting the peanut picture in a newly purchased drugstore picture frame actually makes my heart hurt! Thank you!!!

~J said...

I laughed, I cried, I awww'd....your writing just amazes me...and your daughter is beautiful! (It's no wonder...her mother is too!)

bernicewood said...

I have never been to your blog before and just read your post about your daughter. I have a 17 year old, so this just REALLY tugged at my heart! From what I see I am def going to subscribe!

The Chicken's Consigliere said...

Beautiful post and a beautiful girl. Why am I not surprised by that:-)

Lula Lola said...

What a beautiful letter! And what a beautiful daughter you have! I'm crying! Your pregnancy sounds so much like mine. I miscarried my first baby, and sitting in that ultrasound room praying in the dark was just awful, I'll never forget how hopeful Wayne was as he looked at that screen and how sad he looked when we heard the bad news.

I started spotting with Adam, and thought we were going through it all again. I couldn't even look at the ultrasound monitor this time. I watched Wayne's face. The look of relief that I saw wash over him was just the balm I needed.

These children that are our first loves really shape us, don't you think?

I love that you're both on the brink of something wonderful!
And I love Hall and Oats! One of my very first albums. Sara Smile is such a song!

I love coming here!

Mom of the Perpetually Grounded said...

I echo, Beautiful, Beautiful, Beautiful post. Beautiful girl with a beautiful name as well!

JennyMac said...

She is beautiful and so are you. You really cherish life and the beautiful moments built in. That is one quality I adore about you.

Dawn in Austin said...

That was really pretty. And so is your daughter. I felt the same way as each of mine made the step into adulthood and left my nest. It's lonely here, sometimes.

Cheryl said...

My kids are still little. Still little, and yet, your post made me cry, thinking about the time when they will leave and go out to make their own life.

Thank you for this beautiful post.

Sara Plays House said...

OK. I saw your comment on Monique's blog, and came on over. I AM SO GLAD I DID.
Because you're making me cry. Because THIS, THIS is what I want to be able to write about my girl when she's so close to being a grown-up. I want her to sit in the car with me and tell me about music.
Good grief, lady. Welcome to my feed reader, you've EARNED it. :)

Holyoke Home said...

Lovely gorgeous words for a lovely gorgeous girl!

Julesagain said...

Beautiful. Just lovely. My daughter and I shared a love for music that got us through some tough times.

I will have to check out the Bird and the Bee - my favorite H&O album was Abandoned Luncheonette.

OK gotta go blow my nose now.
Jules

Gretchen Seefried said...

wow. magical. memorable. Reading about moments like this makes all the bad news that we hear every day, go away. Thanks very much...I love my car rides with my daughter too... will appreciate them even more tomorrow.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Joey @ Big Teeth and Clouds said...

I agree with mom, those photos are awesome, but I guess if there are some better than that she should put them up too!

abitosunshine said...

Your Letter to your Girl is so full of life, so full of love. Great selcetion for iWrite-iBlog-iWin.

Blessings & a bit o' sunshine!
Ruthi

Renee said...

Beautiful!

The Girl Next Door Grows Up said...

Great post to choose!

tulpen said...

Ack.

That's what I say when something is too sweet for words.

Ack.

laura@imnotatrophywife.com said...

New follower.. saw your blog on another blogrolll and then i read this post about your daughter. i'm hooked. I have a 16 year old daughter, a junior. I wrote about the ache in my heart as she pulls away, the way they are supposed to, the way that tells us they are growing up. I can't way to follow you... would love a visit if only to motivate me to write from my heart and not my not so crafty side!
laura@imnotatrophywife.com

http://imnotatrophywife.blogspot.com/2010/12/im-not-ready.html

Sherri said...

Don't even ask me how I got here today...I am not even sure. Such a beautiful post. My daughter turns 13 this week, and she's my absolute joy.

This made me smile AND cry. Thank you for that...

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