Today is my daughter’s 26th birthday. Uh-huh. Twenty. Six.
(Pardon me? What was that? I’m sorry, I believe you must have transposed a number or something…I'm pretty sure there’s an extra twenty in there somewhere.)
Don’t get me wrong—I’ve never been the kind of mom who mourns the passing of the years, wishing their kids would stay kids. And to be honest, I’ve always felt a bit aberrant in that. More than a bit selfish.
I reveled in Kaeleigh’s natural independence from an early age; welcomed her metamorphosis from needing me to wanting my company, to defying me, to finally knowing me, to sharing a powerful and at times personally epic history.
It’s just that twenty-six years doesn’t make sense to a part of me. How did time move through and beyond us in such measure, while so many other things seemed to stand still? How did my daughter become such a beautiful, unique, maddening, glorious reflection of me, almost without my knowing? I only turned my back for a second, I swear…
Cleaning up some old files on my computer a while back, I came across an entry from a column I used to write for a newspaper called The Island Independent. I wrote it in September 1993, on Kaeleigh’s first day of school. Reading it again after so long, I was hit with the same breathless, stinging rush of emotion I felt when I was writing it.
I still feel exactly the same way about her, only the years have served to deepen it, to make the love in me spark and shimmer like a flare in dark water; elevating and humbling me at the same time in the wide open and terrifying lawlessness of parenthood.
There truly are no rules, no definitions, as a parent… only the certainty that you will hand over your legacy to your children and they will run with it, in whatever direction their soul’s path asks of them.
And you will feel for them more fiercely than you ever imagined being capable of; and you will question and cling to your faith more desperately than any saint or martyr should ever have to; and your heart will shatter and expand a thousand times over, a hundred times more than you think you can possibly survive.
And in the end, you will know to your soul that you have witnessed God, and that you have endured the truest, sweetest pain there could ever be… the love of, and for, a child.
Here is a birthday/thank you card for my child—the most extraordinary, delightful, stubborn, talented, powerful, and magical young woman I have ever been blessed to know. And the message is still exactly the same as it was all those years ago:
To my daughter, Kaeleigh…
I watched you this morning, all the way from our house to the parking lot of the school.
You were busy looking out the window, but I flipped the rear view mirror down so I could see you. I kept my eyes on the road ahead, but I was continuously drawn by the sunlight teasing the curls that escaped your braid; the freckles that summer has only recently gifted your nose and cheeks with; the curve of your little tomcat chin and the cool, self-possessed air of your smile.
I found myself wondering, who is this creature? This little wise woman-child in the back seat of my cluttered car, holding tight to her lunch basket and her expectations of the first day of first grade. And I marveled at how lucky I am, how I must have been doing something really remarkable, in some completely perfect moment when you looked down from your celestial flight path, pointed a tiny finger and said, “That’s her, that’s the one…”
And then you came into this world, giving me a brief and glorious opportunity to share a time and a space with you. Thanks, baby, for coming in through me—I love you so…
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To find out more about my amazing kid, please visit her blog, KaeleighBee.