The day you were born was the happiest day of my life. I was terrified, exhilarated, tired, excited and completely head over heels in love with my new beautiful pink baby girl. The day you came into my life you became my reason. I had no idea what I was getting myself into but I figured we’d learn together. Your cry was so loud and distinctive that even an hour after you were born your dad picked you out in the nursery.
You showed spirit even then! Everyone who saw you fell in love with you. You were a beautiful baby just full of life. You ate with gusto, cried with abandon, laughed until your whole body wiggled, slept like you were hibernating and awoke like a burst of sunshine on a rainy day. I used to spy on you from the doorway to your bedroom and watch you lay on your back and coo to yourself with this angelic gummy smile on your face. Then you’d get hungry and cry until the paint peeled off the walls.
When you were six weeks old you had to be hospitalized for an infection. I stayed with you while you were there. I couldn’t imagine leaving my newborn baby with a bunch of strangers. The nurses loved you immediately. They used to come and kidnap you and take you on rounds with them allegedly so I could get some sleep but I knew it was because you were such a happy baby, even as sick as you were.
As you got older you started to show a stubborn streak. You would not crawl but instead scooted until you were old enough to begin walking. Then when you walked you would sort of stand and then propel yourself into the nearest object. You had a lot of bumps and bruises while you figured that all out. You liked to throw things off your high chair tray and then laughed like a hyena when Mommy had to fetch them back. For the longest time you would only push your walker backwards no matter how hard I tried to get you to move forward.
You didn’t want to ride in your stroller most of the time. It was too confining. You wanted to walk and push the stroller with me. You didn’t like to hold my hand because then you couldn’t go where you wanted. You loved going to the mall because you loved the fountains but you hated it because I wouldn’t let you play in the water. You wanted to throw pennies all day. We had to stop doing that when you threw a penny and hit a boy’s glasses. I was afraid you might hurt someone!
You were a timid baby but as you became more mobile you also became more fearless. I’d never had to worry about you climbing out of your crib and suddenly you were showing up next to my bed in the middle of the night or crawling your way out of your car seat while I drove. You used to try to pry my eyes open when I was sleeping.
When you were two you climbed the fence at our new house and ran away from home. You were so proud of yourself when the neighbor lady brought you back. You were all bouncy blonde curly pigtails and pink jumper with that big sunshiny grin on your face telling Mommy “I runnded away!” I didn’t know whether to shake you or hug you. I think I did both. I know I cried my eyes out. The only reason the lady even knew who you were is because she had seen us moving in the week before and recognized your pretty blonde pigtails.
You charmed everyone you met. You were a beautiful toddler with an incredible store of energy. You were funny though because you would go, go, go until you stopped and then you were dead to the world. Even as a toddler you slept like a log. You would eat with one foot on the floor ready to take off as soon as I allowed it. I’d have to trick you to get you to stay still long enough to get the food into you.
You never got up before me to look for what Santa Claus left you. I had to force you to get up. You were always a night person and mornings were not your style. Oh some of our biggest battles were morning time. I would have to pull you out of bed and dress you while you whined and complained! By the time you were four you had your morning greeting down pat. I would say “Good Morning it’s time to get up!” You would respond “Mommy I’m sick.” I tried everything. Do you remember the “energy pills”? Oh boy that was an idea that backfired. I tried to convince you that a lifesaver was an “energy pill” and it would help you wake up. I think it worked twice before you caught on.
At day care you quickly learned how to get your way. You were so smart you scared the heck out me! I couldn’t talk about anything in front of you even at the age of two or three because not only would you parrot what I said but you seemed to understand it!
Your stubbornness showed itself again at three. I was so worried there was something wrong with you because you would not sing the alphabet song and you would not count. It wasn’t until I happened to be walking past your bedroom one day and stopped. You were singing in your sweet, breathy, lispy way the entire alphabet song and I realized you knew it, you just wouldn’t sing it on demand.
In grade school you mastered every subject, excelled at most. By the time you were in fourth grade I knew I had a challenge ahead of me academically. In middle school a teacher called you brilliant; she said you should be a writer. It was also that same teacher who became so exasperated with your incessant talking that she sent you to the principal!
You learned to play the violin in grade school and were quite good, I wish you still played. You continued playing all the way through high school. When you were thirteen you started dancing and loved it. The first time you were on stage I was so nervous for you. You looked so grown up with your lipstick and your costume. When you were done you came bounding over to me wearing your ballet slippers and a huge grin on your face. I asked you “Oh honey were you nervous?” Do you remember what you said? “No Mom I belong up there!” you said with stars in your eyes standing like a ballet dancer.
In high school you found theater. This was such a perfect outlet for you. You were surrounded by fun, quirky, creative people who loved the same things you did. I was so glad you’d found such a solid group of friends. Even though you were out late some nights I knew you were doing something you loved in as safe an environment as any. I certainly do not miss the hours of sitting in my car waiting to pick you up from dance or play rehearsal or violin lessons or voice lessons or whatever other thing you had going on! I do miss those rides home though, listening to your day.
I miss our adventures! I miss our impromptu car trips and the spontaneous explorations. I miss trying new restaurants and going to the movies with you. You and I had the best conversations during those car rides! Sometimes we would just ride in the quiet of the car in a companionable silence I’ve never known with anyone else. Most of the time we had the stereo going and we were singing along to whatever music we were into at the time.
What an adventure we’ve had in the last nearly twenty-four years. You were and still are the first thing I think of when I wake up in the morning and the last thing before I sleep. My life would have been so different had I waited to have a child later in life but I don’t think I would have been lucky enough to have you.
I know I made mistakes … oh god did I. I know there were a lot of things I should have done differently. It was hard to be a Mom sometimes but I never for one second have regretted it. Every experience we have in life shapes us and makes us who we are. Having you at twenty two and being a divorced Mom was not easy and there were times when I just wanted to throw in the towel. I didn’t have all the answers, I still don’t, but everything I did I did from a place of love.
There is nothing in the world that compares to a mother’s love for her child. It’s all consuming, all encompassing and always there. My heart hurts when yours does. I share your pain and your sorrows and I revel in your victories. I wish I could keep all the bad away and let only good things happen to you. I think we need pain and adversity in order to become the people we’re supposed to be. With adversity comes strength.
If I hadn’t had the experiences I’ve had in my life I wouldn’t be who I am today. You are such a big part of that. I was such a cliché, a young divorced mother with a low paying job living in a low rent apartment. I didn’t want you to be raised like that but things happen in our lives we can’t control. I cried about it more than I should have probably but then I picked myself up off the floor and I got to work creating a better life for us. I worked three jobs for a time just to keep you in a good school and to keep us going. I was tired all the time but it was worth it in the long run. You have proven that with your successes.
You could not have made me prouder. The second happiest day of my life was the day I watched my beautiful baby girl walk across the stage and accept her college degree. All our hard work paid off.
Now you’re going to be twenty four soon and you’re living in New York. Sometimes I think I still catch a glimpse of that little girl with the blonde pigtails just beyond the corner of my eye. She runs full tilt with her curls bouncing, singing a song she made up. The memory makes me smile and sometimes makes me cry a little. I so admire the young woman you have become but I still miss that baby too.