Today she is twenty-two.
It is a little hard to believe that twenty-two years ago today I was pacing the short distance from the bedroom ro the living room of our student apartment, trying to breath through the contractions.
I ache in different places now, and my baby girl has gone to Las Vegas with friends to celebrate her birthday.
It's funny what you remember, isn't it?
I remember that when she was newborn, she was looking around our bedroom, appraising it, as if it were somehow familiar. She didn't cry. At least not right away. Instead, she had this intent, serious look on her face. In the late afternoon sunset I could see the green-gray behind the milky infant blue in her eyes. I said to her father, "She has my mother's eye color there, just behind the blue."
I remember pacing the floor with her that fall, as she screamed her way through colic every evening between 6 and 8:30 PM. I played the Walkman with the earphones in, hoping to remain calm--as if any new mother could--through the fussing. At the time, it seemed like forever until she grew out of it, but looking back--well, what is six weeks compared to twenty-two years?
I remember when she started pre-school. On the very first Shabbat at home, she began singing: "What do you like about Shabbat!" And then she used her left arm to turn her whole arm toward her dad, and sang: "Mah-dy," (her made up word for her dad), "what do you like about Shabbat?" She was every inch the teacher leading the class.
And what about the second-night Hillel Seder when she was three. She stood up on the chair in roomful of 40 college students and adults and fearlessly sang the four questions. In tune. She was wearing a pink sailor dress, I remember, that it was almost as long as she was.
I remember reading The Hobbit aloud to her when she was three or four, and then she took the book away from me and began reading it back. And the insatiable love of books began right then and there, when we went "On Beyond Zebra!" She was going to open her own bookstore and call it Gold Medal Books. In it she would sell Newberry Award books and American Library Awards books, too.
I remember that at her little brother's birth, she was the only person who could rub my feet and make me feel better. She was thrilled about him. And not so thrilled, too. She used the phrase, "But that was before my little brother came along and ruined my life!" Alot. But when there was a fire alarm in theater, she was the first one out, pushing past other people, little brother in tow.
And the birthdays. At two, she got a tricycle, and by four, a two-wheeler. At three she came skipping home singing "Balloons for the Birthday Girl!" Barbie came somewhere in there, and her favorite Miko, who got lost one day years later. She mourned for months and searched for nearly a year. There was the year of the pinata in the courtyard, and the year of the party at the local park. There was the year she had a little brother. At twelve, we had to return a cd because it had the parental warning on it. That was also the year of teeny-bopper pop--Janet Jackson and the boy bands. At thirteen, her Bat Mitzvah overshadowed her birthday, and we had a sleepover on October 9th--a thirteen-and-a-month birthday party.
Fifteen was a really hard birthday because her cat was killed by the neighbors dog the day before it. We postponed the party until the 10th, when we brought home a new kitten. But it wasn't the same. Those teen years are hard, when the magic of special days wears off and Mom and Dad have lost their shiny virtue and have become merely human. Or worse. Sixteen and another sleepover and anger that it wasn't what we had talked about for her "Sweet Sixteen." Hard years. Little money and less time.
But at seventeen, she not only got her drivers license, but her stepfather invested in a car for her. Gertrude. It was a "grandma car." But she was happy to have it so that she could stay at her high school after we moved.
Eighteen. Was it cheesecake or ice-cream cake? But there was a shopping trip for special jewelry. Her birthstone in a necklace and earrings.
Nineteen, and we got her a rice-cooker for her dorm kitchen comfort.
Twenty. Back home, lunch and a shopping trip. And she broke up with her high-school boyfriend. Finally.
Twenty-one. That was a very good year. A birthday celebration at home with her new boyfriend--and for sure, cheesecake, her favorite. What a difference a year makes! And a trip with friends to Disney World in Orlando the weekend after Yom Kippur.
And today--twenty-two. Her first birthday away from home. She's in Las Vegas. Staying at a fancy hotel. She could be--G-d forbid--playing the slots. Certainly, she is eating well. I hope. Did I tell her not to drink too much? Well, I should have! I hope she doesn't elope today!
We'll have to schedule a time to make a party with the family and give her a gift. She might be too busy to have Rosh Hashanah dinner with us. Am I complaining? Maybe a little. But she should have fun. She's young, she's pretty, she's--twenty-two. Soon enough she will be celebrating her own babies' births! She'll be the mom. It's coming. I can see the look in her eye when a baby passes by with its mother. And I see how she looks at her boyfriend. Sigh. Well. He's a good man. But shouldn't she be older? Like maybe 40?
Today I did a bit of this and a bit of that. Nobody said to me, "Remember what it was like twenty-two years ago today?" I cleaned the new floor. I painted two more walls in the living room. One to go. I practiced giving the WAIS to Bruce. The results aren't valid and I couldn't tell him what they were--Dr. Yeo said absolutely not. It took a long time. It sort of took my mind off the fact that my baby girl is not even home on her birthday. For the first time since she came sliding into the world in our bedroom, all eight pounds, eight ounces of her. Looking around the room contemplatively. Like she knew the world and approved.
And she's taller than I am.
Some mothers can hardly wait for the empty nest. I thought I was one of them. But here I am. My nest is, at most, less than half-empty and I am feeling it.
I guess I should think about the grandchildren to come. Then I'll have more birthdays to celebrate. At her house. I wonder what kind of cake they'll want? Cheesecake. Gotta be.
It was just one of those days. Cloudy. Cool. Drizzly. Fall is coming. It was sunny and hot the day she was born. A Monday. "Monday's child is fair of face..."
And she's twenty-two. And in Las Vegas. And the world keeps turning. Day follows night. The stars move in their courses. Time marches on, no matter how much we want it to stand still.