Happy birthday My Gorgeous!
Hey 19. Please take me along when you slide on down.
Emily and Lauren don’t make me feel old. I guess I feel young enough to have 9 and 13 year olds. But my delusions don’t allow me to think I’m old enough to have a 19 year old. How did that happen? And I started later than some of my friends. I’m old enough to be a grandmother actually. With Emily and Lauren, I’m in full Mommie-mode. They need me in a different way than Grace. They need me in ways Grace has outgrown and she can do for herself. But at 19, what Grace needs from me morphs into a hybrid of parent and peer. Oh, she still needs me and Paul, but adult conversations about health and career choices and gas mileage and future plans tell me that more and more we have become less and less the center of her world.
I was 19 once. But I was never 19 like Grace. All my most beautiful moments smashed together, buffed and shined, polished and glossed, don’t hold a candle to My Gorgeous. Not with her own long brown hair that used to be. Not with the short, curly hair that now hides under her headscarves and wigs. Not with the purple extensions. Not with the platinum wig, or the brown, pink, black, blue, or red. And Grace bald is hotter than me on my best hair day.
She’s been through more in her 19 years than I would wish on my worst enemy. She’s lived through crap you don’t even know. You think you know, but you don’t. I don’t even know. She is a silent warrior who battles her enemies in the dark. She won’t let anybody see her fight because she is afraid you’ll see her lose. But those secret battles have left her bloody, gagging, scarred and bald. But My Gorgeous, you are an overcomer.
Paul and I recently had our wills drawn up again. Now we only have 2 daughters young enough to need custodial guardianship. If something happened to us, Grace would be on her own. And thinking about who gets this China and who gets that necklace, leaves me wondering if those items will be cherished as gifts the same way I cherish giving them. I know exactly what China and jewelry I want to give to Grace. But Grace made fun of me and my cast iron skillet a while back, so I told her I wouldn’t leave that to her when I die. She’s not upset about that. Then she joked that she’s going to bury me with our printer. I hate that damn printer. I need somebody to make sure Grace doesn’t put that printer in my casket.
This will be the first year we haven’t been with Grace on her birthday. Lauren will be at travel-softball practice with Paul. I offered to take Grace and Emily out for dinner, but Grace said we could just wait until the weekend to celebrate. I could just show up at her dorm. I just want to kiss her cheek. There will be birthdays that she isn’t as close as her dorm, and birthdays that we can’t just have dinner on the weekend. She will be gone. I know this about Grace. Maybe she’ll come back, but the Pfafftown can’t hold her.
Months ago, sitting on a bench at the duck pond watching Oh Emily catch minnows and Lauren skip rocks, I asked Grace if she would sit here with me when I’m old. “No. I’ll be in New York City. I’ll sit with you at Central Park.” She said she would send for me and Dad. She better send for us soon. My bedtime is getting earlier and earlier.
She’ll send for us. Uugghh! She’ll be out enjoying the city life in NYC, and I’ll be here at the duck pond. I guess that’s the best I can hope for. As Paul and I get older, maybe she will take us along as she slides on down. The Netflix shows, the Melatonin, make tonight a wonderful thing.
I remember the day she turned 9. For some reason I have the memory of saying to her “you’re halfway.” I can see her looking at me in her yellow bedroom, asking “huh?” I told her that when she is 18, she’ll be almost done with high school and ready to move out to college. And here she is at 19 in her dorm on her birthday. She chose that yellow paint for her walls. But now her favorite color is black. She goes to UNCSA and the school colors are black and black. And when I buy Christmas wrapping paper for each of us, all her gifts are wrapped in black paper. She’s not that dark. (She once was. Not anymore.) But the sunshiny yellow 9 year old has given way to the eclectic artist of 19.
No, I’ve never been 19 like Grace. Nobody does 19 like Grace. She is creative and stubborn and self righteous. She stands for the underdog because she has been one. She will start a fight and finish it, too. She is deep waters. A locked box. The scarred beauty. Her tears are precious jewels mined from the pit of her heart and soul, and if she dares to show them to you, you’d better not gamble them away with your careless laughter and thoughtless comments. She hears you. You won’t make that mistake twice, because she will lock those gems away deeper next time and you’ll never see them again. Those of us who really cherish them will have to work even harder to mine them back up to the surface next time.
This overcomer of trials and pain is too grand for this place. She will take her brushes and combs and makeup kits to Broadway or LA, and she will call out beauty on the stage and on movie sets. We will see her work and it will be her gift to us. And for those of us who cherish My Gorgeous, we will cherish her gifts the same way that she cherishes giving them.
Happy Birthday, My Gorgeous,
Love, Mommie XXOO.