My Girl at 40
Forty years ago today, I was a
dumb naive twenty year old girl, leaving the house to climb into the car, and drive to the hospital to deliver you, my first child. The one who would make me a mother. I had no clue what either of us was in for.
You were supposed to be a boy. I was so sure you would be, that I didn't even pick out a girl name ahead of time. Not that they did sonograms then; I just knew. So much for a mother's intuition. Hours after giving birth for the first time, with the help of minimal drugs and salad tongs, and having mistakenly been given an ice cold sitz bath, when I was asked what to name you, I came up with Sarah. (When you aren't in love with your middle name, which I won't state here, remember it would have been Leroy.)
Two days later I walked back in that little house, and brought you home, six lbs, 8 1/2 ounces of fragileness that I had no idea what to do with.
Our first night home, we both cried for hours. Finally, at 2 a.m. your father called your Grandma Margie, who had given birth to eight children herself; without hesitating, she drove over on that cold, snowy night and burped you so we could all get some sleep. It's amazing, truly the grace of God, that we kept you alive, considering what inept hands you'd been placed in. When you were three weeks old, I went back to work, and your Aunt Tracie watched you during the day. In spite of the fact she had a three month old of her own. Oh for the graces that come in and out of our lives, and we're rarely fully aware of them.
By the time you were four you were the kid of divorced parents, and I moved you to the middle of nowhere, North Dakota. From early on you had to learn to adapt to whatever life threw at you. New father, new siblings, new place to live. And so we kept growing up together.
By the time you were sporting big permed hair and makeup I didn't wipe off, and braces to straighten your teeth, you'd moved several more times, and we were both trying to survive you turning into a teenager. Some days it felt like it was just barely, for me and for you too I imagine. It's hard to say who was a bigger mess at times, but we hung on. Both of us had plenty to forgive the other one for. Looking back, I can see both of us behaving like we were in middle school was bound to create some problems. The older you got, the less I knew what on earth I was doing, trying to raise you, when I had so many areas to grow up in myself.
Then somehow time slipped by me, and you grew into this. You went away to a small Christian college, met this man, and grew into this woman who makes me have a lump in my throat and tears welling up in my eyes, to even think about what you became. A teensy little bit because of me, but more so in spite of me. I'm convinced God always knew what you would grow into, who you would become, whose you would become. He'd planned long before that you would be the wife of this man, a pastor's wife (God bless you!), a fabulous mama to four beautiful children. Still I am amazed. This grown up, wise beyond her years, strong but gentle woman started out as my little girl. It's like buying a lottery ticket on a whim, and finding out, years down the road, that you won the jackpot.
So, Sarah, for your fortieth birthday a few things need to be said:
Forgive me for coming to school and making you wipe off your mascara in front of your friends. Not my best move.
Forgive me for dressing you in brown most of the time, and boyish hair. I had no clue you looked beautiful in pinks and blues and teal greens. I could have upped my game a bit back then.
Forgive me for not standing strong and telling you no when I should have, and trying to be your friend when I should have just been the parent. We had lots of years to be friends later. Insert here, 'Dad was right.'
Forgive me for reading your journal that one time after I found it hidden in the ceiling tiles.
Forgive me for reminding you about your hamster's tragic demise more than once. Never again.
Forgive me for that one time the palm of my hand stung your face. I was wrong. One of the regrets of my life.
Fair or not, you were my 'learn as you go', 'trial by error' kid. The one I had to figure out this mothering thing with, so I messed up a lot. I gave it my best effort, but the truth is sometimes it was still lacking. Hopefully there was enough good mothering in the middle of all that mess we were, to cover the multitude of my sins.
To say you make me proud is so puny compared to what I hold for you, deep down at the core of my being. February 18, 1976 was one of the absolute best days of my life, even if I didn't fully know it then. You, just being you, surpass everything I hoped and dreamed you would become.
And you will always, always, always be My Girl.