So many anecdotes come to mind these last weeks when I'm pondering all your days. Actually a billion stories, but two that rise to the top.
The standing on your chair and hollering during a school play story: When you were around the age of 3 your Daddy's friend -- the same friend who said you had personality times three, at least -- taught you to mimic a popular television commercial in which animated characters heckle each other with the call "You stink. Get off the stage!" It was a punch line you repeated often for laughs. We never expected you to translate the smack talk into real life context though. Imagine our horror when we took you and your brothers to an elementary school play in our new town to see a neighbor kid perform. At a perfect, quiet moment you stood right up on your chair and hollered, "You stink. Get off the stage!". Oh, yes, you did.
The wearing a glove on one hand all summer story: You were my only child to suck her thumb. It was a rather adorable habit when you were a baby and still kind of cute as a toddler. As a preschooler we felt obligated to be concerned, but no matter what we tried you could not kick the habit. The summer before you were to enter "real" school (as opposed to the year of kindergarten we schooled at home) you took matters into your own hands -- literally.
Your great-grandmother offered you a suggestion and you made it work. Wear a glove on the thumb-sucking hand until you don't have the urge to do it anymore. In every picture we have from that summer, there you are short-sleeves, shorts and one winter glove. We did not ask you to do this -- it was all your own 5-year-old initiative. Night and day, in preschool, at church, everywhere we went you wore that glove. And it worked. We knew then we were parents to a genius.
You used that same determination to teach yourself how to read and ride your bike when you got tired of waiting for your distracted parents to do the job. You used that same organizational focus to pack your preschool bag each Tuesday and Thursday -- the snack, the glove and a ragged little New Testament Bible you wanted to have with you at all times.
May it be so now and forever, amen, sweet girl.
So maybe what I'm trying to say is that these tales I'm pondering I feel like I barely know my own girl. You are so self-contained, you often elude me. You are a mystery I am trying to name and, for now, I'm using stories.
You are my third child. When you were born I felt peace for the first time that I could do this -- mother a newborn. Your calmness as an infant led me to believe I finally knew what I was doing. Now I think it was more like, "No worries, Mom. I can take care of myself."
I'm pretty sure you got the natural, self-confidence from your Dad. That sort of fearlessness is so foreign to me it has to be from your father.
My memories of your first year come back to me gentle and warm, wrapped in a feeling of calm delight. Calm even though that same year Dad was finishing his bachelor's degree with 3 kids under 5 running around his study space, even though we didn't yet have a regular salary or health benefits, even though we outgrew our second-story apartment and had to move a few days before Christmas.
You were the first child I felt like I might know something about caring for an infant. So maybe some of that confidence came from me after all?
Either way, this tenacious spirit fueled you for the many challenges you've faced the past few years. You've made a whole bunch of new stories:
The persevering through three different high schools in two different states in four years story.
The falling in love with Jhostin and Potter's House and Guatemala story.
The singing your heart out even when you weren't recognized by your choir director story.
Now you get ready to leap into this new season of life with that same determination -- calm and fierce.
Dad and I cried when we watched you process into the arena last week. "It's the song" everyone told us. Probably. But it's also the knowing that there's a fire lit in you that is not fueled by our ability to be good parents. You sort of entered the world with it and we've been lucky enough to be warmed by its light these 18 years.
During the ceremony I cried again at the press and rush of familial energy in the stadium -- each tribe wanting desperately to be known as present and connected to their own blue-gowned child in the center. It's something to behold, this sort of anthemic devotion. When your name was called we hooted and hollered. And I shouted -- without premeditation -- "THAT'S MY GIRL!". It's our own last opportunity to claim you before you toss the cap, shrug off the gown and slip into the world as your own solid self.
We holler to hear the echo in our own ears. To remind ourselves that we had a part in the unfolding of your life and it's something to celebrate. We hope you heard us, yes, but we mostly needed to remind ourselves. We belong with that one there and isn't she marvelous?!?
We holler to absorb the jolt of your stunning life processing outward to this needy, beautiful world. We pin the moment down in hullabaloo, collect words and photographs from your childhood. We do these things as a substitute for trapping the beautiful mystery of you. Your light already too bright to be contained in this house.
Go in your fierce tenderness, my girl. May the needy world be warmed by your steady light.
* Thank you to the also marvellous photography duo, Stephen & Whitney Henderson at
The Habit of Seeing, for these gorgeous senior photos of our girl.*