If God almighty were to sit in judgment of me the way that my daughter has, then I would be damned to hell for all of eternity. Of this, I am certain….
Actually, I am only teasing.
But, I was surprised by a little exchange between me and my daughter Ellen Frances. Ellen is my oldest daughter and my “middle child.”
I called her last Friday to tell her that I’d just dropped her sister off at the airport. Olivia, my youngest daughter, and Ellen have been training for a half marathon in San Antonio, Texas. Ellen was going to drive from school in Louisiana to Texas to pick up her sister at the airport there.
“I just dropped your sister off at the airport.” I said. “And, I wanted to tell you that I’ve sent your birthday present with her. You can open it now or save it till your actual birthday. It’s up to you.”
“Hmmmm.” Began her reply.
“What?” I asked.
“I just wondered how long it would take for you to remember my birthday.” She said.
“What?” I asked. “When have I ever forgotten your birthday?”
“Well, you haven’t mentioned it and you usually do.” She said.
It seems as if she waits, with baited breath for the slightest misstep. There must be a secret list and for every slight, hurt feeling, misunderstanding or trigger of a bad childhood memory, the list grows.
It is her personal arsenal of ammunition that I expect will one day, make its way into a counselors office somewhere; proof that in fact it is always your mother’s fault.
I know that this is true because many years ago, I too, was a young adult.
Now, I know that until we have lived life, surfing it’s good and bad days—allowing the edges to be rubbed smooth by each day’s grind, it is impossible to understand that despite all of our best efforts, we screw up, our tempers flare and those little falls from grace are remembered. To see beyond our hurt is a big job that requires experience, even perhaps sight from a path not yet trod.
And so, I write this little piece to share something with you, Ellen Frances in honor and fond memory of your birth twenty-five years ago.
Now, I know that you can point to that one time in Cracker Barrel when I thought Dad was watching your infant seat and he thought that I was watching it. But, technically speaking, I didn’t forget you, I just thought that you were being watched by your dad.
But, I digress. We don’t forget our babies. And, I know that you can’t know that yet. But, you will. When you have a magical day like I did on September 17, 1991.
It actually started at midnight the night before when I entered the hospital where they gave me something to get my labor going. The next morning, little progress had been made and so your dad went to breakfast, which is when my water broke. Do you sense a pattern with Dad?
I should have watched him a little closer…
After a few painful contractions, Dr. Vichai Duangjak decided that like your brother, you had a big head (which is not a bad thing for you…because your pediatrician, Dr. Jung Min Lee said “You have good brain”) but it meant that another c-section would be necessary to deliver you.
It didn’t take long for you to make your way into the world and into our hearts. And, while your brother said that first day that he saw you, “I don’t need her” upon learning of your dirty diaper, we still do.
If I take inventory of my life without pause or even the slightest hesitation I can tell you with total certainty, that there are four days in my life that are the most important and I remember them with a joy that is beyond description.
And your birthday is one of those days.
I understand that you don’t yet have a way of knowing that feeling of carrying and delivering something so miraculous—straight from the hands of God, but when you do, then you will know.
They might get busy from time to time. They might get tired and they do grow old. They can forget many things but their babies aren’t one of those things.
On my birthday in 1998, your Memaw called me and didn’t mention my birthday. I was very sad. But, I knew she loved me. I knew because I had the three of you. In less than an hour she called me back, mortified that she had forgotten. But, really she didn’t. She was dying and still she remembered.
Because, my dear girl, Mamas Never forget their babies. I hope that you will always know that.
We love you and wish you the happiest birthday!!!
I am a daughter, sister, aunt, mother and probably most notoriously, ‘the Vet’s wife’.