September 27, 2016My Gorgeous,
I’m almost at a loss for words. Almost.
I think I always expected this birthday would be emotional for me, just like all the milestones are. First birthday. Kindergarten. Middle School. High school. 16. But this one…I don’t know. I expected sentimentality because,come on, it’s me. But I think that this milestone is so heavy on my heart today because of the struggles you have been through and because it is so close to your biggest, most spectacular fail of your life. And thank God you failed at ending your life.
I have to say that Daddy gets credit for giving the best 18th birthday present, and I’ve told him that. I’m not jealous that he gets 1st place on gift giving this year, or maybe every year from this point forward. The gift is just that awesome! And I don’t want to join in on the gift; it’s his, not mine. But it leaves me feeling like I want to remind you that I gave birth to you. And although playing the uterus card isn’t fair and isn’t politically correct, it’s the best card I’ve got, and I’m playing it.
I wondered what I could give today that might mean something to you. I wish I had your talent for drawing. I’d show you how beautiful you are to me. But I don’t. So I’m going to draw YOU with my words. I’m going to tell you what I think of you…
I think you are amazing, Grace. Yes, the writer went for the cheap-o cliche because the truth is that you have represented God’s grace in my life since I saw the still-wet pregnancy test and audibly heard God tell me “you will name this child Grace.” I knew you were Grace from the very beginning, and we chose not to confirm it by ultrasound. I knew the delivery doctor was wrong when he saw the northern half of your body and said “it’s a boy!” Medical school should have taught him to wait for the southern half to be delivered before making that kind of statement. You were red-ish-headed and pink and tiny and looked just like your dad had spit you out himself. You would have never known that I had grown you. But I did. And I loved you.
You were an ornery and cantankerous child. You loved bugs from the day you discovered them. I found toddler-Grace lying flat on your stomach watching a line of ants marching across the kitchen floor. You were mesmerized, and you screamed angrily as I picked you up and swatted and stomped on the ants. And I also found you munching on something and I pulled it out of your mouth, as you kicked and screamed and fought my attempt to keep you from choking. Poor cricket. Actually it was only half a cricket, but your babysitter told me later that the other half had successfully passed through. It still grosses me out to think about that. And I loved you.
You were phenomenal driving to and from Seattle. To be as young as you were, it was a lot to ask of you to leave everything you knew so Daddy could go to grad school. Seattle was actually my birthplace, though I never remembered it because I was little when I left and it isn’t where my memories live. But I treasure my memories of you in your room and playing at the play ground with your friends and painting pumpkins and sitting on the pig statue at Pike Place Market and eating salmon. You kept Daddy and me grounded and centered knowing you depended on us to make Seattle home for you for just a little while. You accepted Jesus into your heart when we lived there. And I loved you.
You have become a big sister twice, once on purpose. You have had a more contentious relationship with the Middlest than with the Litllest until recently. I think being in the hospital after your attempt has made you look differently on Lauren. Am I right? You won’t tell me. Lauren was old enough to visit the psyche ward and I think that mattered to you. It mattered to her. She needed to see you and smell you and hear you, and she needed you home. I know you lost your temper when you took her shopping with the gift cards shortly after you were released, and you just wanted to buy something nice for her, but her anxiety got the worst of her. She puts so much pressure on herself, and she wants desperately for you to like her and approve of her. You have a power and influence over her that shapes how she sees the world, and sometimes you use it like a reward to withhold or bestow, depending on your whim. You should have seen her face when she told me that you liked one of her new school shirts. “Mom, Grace said she liked my shirt and she would wear it if it fit her!” That’s why she asked you do do her eyebrows and asked if she could borrow your pink shirt. Lauren is not a pink girl. But she wanted something of yours and you let her borrow it. And I loved you for that.
Then there is Oh Emily! You are both pig-headed and stubborn, but she’s young and just cute enough to get away with it, where as by the time you’re 18, it’s just obnoxious. You won’t be around as much as she grows up. Well, hopefully you’ll be around, but maybe not in the house. I imagine Emily growing up not knowing you much in the next few years. You’ll be doing your own thing, as you should, and Emily will see you sporadically without knowing as much about you as she should. But you should know that I watched her make a giant birthday card for you with hearts and a bird that was supposed to be a lizard, and when she gives you the Betta fish gift, well, you’re welcome! You fascinate Emily because you are who she wants to be. She communicates with art, and when she has hard things to talk about, she draws me a picture instead of speaking. I’ve seen your heart displayed in shading and detail before as well. Be careful because she is learning from a master. And I love you.
You have been sometimes fancy and glam with your sequins and lace, but you rock the flannel and ripped jeans. Your passion for your future career is makeup, and you can wing your eyeliner like nobody’s business. But bare-faced you are stunning! Almond-shaped blue eyes that don’t need any more attention brought to them, but they just can’t hep but be noticed. At this point, you are a brunette officially, but you’ve been wearing a headscarf instead of a wig since you went into the hospital. Before that, it was the wigs and hair extensions. Purple, platinum, brown, pink, red, black. Anything to hide your trichotillomania, but really, you weren’t really hiding. Purple doesn’t whisper “Don’t look at me.” Daddy and I have seen you without your headscarfs recently, but only by chance. You’re more comfortable with them on, despite us telling you how incredible it would look if you would punk-up your short pixie as it grows out. I know you don’t want to go uncovered yet, and maybe it didn’t mean anything to you, but Dad and I both noticed when you walked into the living room Sunday night without a headscarf. You just seemed confident. And I love you.
You are an activist who will not tolerate injustice. I’ve seen you stand up for right and for wrong with equal passion and conviction. You sometimes forget that people are involved in your battles of justice, and just winning your point can mean losing your people. You are a locked box of secrets. If you don’t want someone to know something about you, they will not ever know it unless the Divine steps in as often happens. God has ruined your plans and secrets many times, hasn’t He? I’m grateful for that daily. God has revealed more about you than I wish I knew. Moms and Dads shouldn’t know these things. And I love you anyway.
Your voice changes in the blink of a well lined eyelid. I can tell when you are trying to be sweet to appeal to my softer side, like yesterday when you asked if you could cancel your therapy appointment for today since you didn’t want to go therapy on your birthday. You sounded sweet and tender until I said “no,” then your voice was irritated and short and annoyed. Your words can be manipulative weapons sometimes, but I’ve also heard the most tender healing come from your mouth. Your friendships grow through your words, as you will say anything to rescue and fix the broken people of the world. My dear, don’t you realize everyone is broken? And you are broken, too. Be careful who you allow to offer their fixes to your broken heart, because I love you.
This birthday is overwhelming for me, so just cut your mom some slack today. And just know that I love you.