Friday, October 09, 2009

My Right Arm

I have had two spectacular things occur in my life. Yes, I could get all into the Hallmark greeting card way of thinking and say that "Every day that I wake up and see the beautiful sunrise is a spectacular day," but I'm not. Sunrises are nice but they existed before I walked this earth and I'm guessing they will exist for quite a long time after we've all shed our mortal coils.

So, suck on that Hallmark.

I'm bringing things down to a much more personal level. I am talking about my life seventeen years ago changing drastically in the best sort of way.

I never was the kind of person to babysit when I was a teenager. I never found other people's children to be that fascinating.

At the time that my daughter was born, I had probably held two, maybe three babies in my life.

And let me tell you, labor and delivery nurses have NO sense of humor. If you make a joking comment that "Food goes in one end and the diaper goes on the other, right?" they will not be amused. Nor will any other adult in the room. (It might not be post par tum depression ladies, you might actually be surrounded by assholes.)

But I had my little girl. She was pink and round and wonderful. From her first few hours, she was already developing her sense of humor. I've never seen a new born baby picture where the
baby actually looks like she is saying "hmmmmm. Do you really think your qualified to operate that camera?"

Perhaps it was just my lack of knowledge about the whole baby-thing but I had never seen a happier baby. When I got her first real belly laugh, it made me understand what all the hoopla was about. Yeah, these baby-things can be kinda cool.

I remember the baby monitor as being a curse and a blessing. Her room was just down the hall and any normal human being would have not even bothered with it but of course, the "how to be a paranoid new mother" manual said I needed to get one.

So I would wake up at every little rustle of the blankets. That was annoying

But I would also be woken in the morning with the conversation of a happy baby with her toys. I remember lying there, listening with a stupid grin on my face as she rang the bell and turned the knobs on her busy box. I'd want to rush into her room to pick her up but I also wanted to wait and listen to her conversation.

After a few minutes, I'd come into her room and I'd be greeted with this amazing smile.

Every day is ripe with infinite possibilities. That is one thing that I learned about being a parent.

I wanted my little girl to know that she was loved and to know that no matter what, I believed in her.

I remember actually having moments at the playground where I though, hmmmm, a good parent wouldn't let her do that because she might get hurt but, if I stop her and tell her not to climb so high, I'll be giving her the idea that she is incapable of climbing. I'll be letting her know that since the world is a dangerous place, it is best not to do things that can get you hurt.

And then I would shake my head and think, do all mothers have this struggle? I'd look around at the other mothers on the playground that wouldn't let their little girls climb to the top of the slide or worse yet, would tell their daughters "don't get dirty" while their sons were covered head to toe in mud.

"How high can you go?" I'd ask her.

And then I would casually stand beneath the monkey bars and try not to give the impression that I was the least bit concerned when I was actually terrified out of my mind.

But I was always ready to catch her if she needed me to. That's another thing I learned about being a parent.

I also learned that a broken camera was a good thing and no empty oatmeal can should be thrown away. They didn't beep or flash or do anything fancy. They just provided hours and hours of fun.

There were those hazy times, about nineteen months into the whole "first time parent" schtick when certain additions made life even more interesting. There were days when I was fully aware that this new baby-thing that I had brought home from the hospital was not necessarily appreciated, but it was none the less, tolerated.

Since we lived in the middle of nowhere, Oklahoma and I functioned as a single parent the majority of the time (STBX was in the merchant marine still), I learned to take the kids and hit the road and get stuff done.

Driving to Oklahoma City to get Christmas shopping done with two small children and no help? Piece of cake. Coming out of the mall to discover that you have a flat tire after hours of shopping and two children THAT WERE NOT AMUSED? Piece of crap. Getting a spare tire onto the car and getting the kids over to the tire place where we had to wait another hour or so for service? Piece of bigger crap.

Feeding my babies from a vending machine for the first time and telling my daughter that she could have some "fizzy juice" when it was really Sprite? Priceless. I watched her drink a pop and I thought to myself "Now I'm truly an Oklahoman. Next time, I'll have to fill the baby bottle with Coke." Not a stellar moment but we rolled with the punches.

We moved to Minnesota right before Christmas in 1995. Want to have some fun as a parent? Take two kids that have never seen REAL snow and plop them down in a snowbank as soon as the moving truck stops.

Much hilarity will ensue. And you will no doubt be the cause of their lifelong aversion to snow and cold.

But I have to side with Garrison Keillor when he says that the cold Minnesota weather makes people stronger. I've been trapped alone in a cabin with my kids for three days with a one day diaper supply and we managed. Not well, but we managed.

And I believe the sum total of our last few months could be told in the story of returning from that snow bound cabin. We struggled to get back to Duluth (after dropping STBX off at a ship up the northshore) and when we got back to lakeside, our street hadn't been plowed. The snow was up to my waist and there was not a single broken track down our street. I looked at my baby boy and my toddler girl and I realized we had no choice. I couldn't leave them behind to go break a trail and I couldn't just take one without the other.

I did my best to convince my daughter that this was just another step in our very snowy adventure. I grabbed our bags and the baby and broke a trail as best I could. This consisted of wallowing in the snow in a forward motion for an entire block, all the while telling my daughter to "keep it up! you're doing good! We're almost there!" The snow was practically over her head but she persisted. We worked together and when we reached our front door, we opened it and basically fell into the front hall and just laid there for a few minutes, collecting our thoughts.

She looked at me, lying there in a breathless heap with her baby brother in my arms and stated matter-of-factly, "I don't want to play in the snow anymore."

I couldn't have agreed more.

I think that was the origin of the dream team known now as the Harkness Family.

Sometimes the snow can be over your head and all you can do is the best you can do. Forward momentum and warm woolen mittens can be the most important in life.

That and the realization of just how much you are loved.

For seventeen years, I have known the most amazing woman on the face of this earth.

Happy Birthday my dear.


Anonymous said...

Happy day to the warrior princess! May this next trip around the sun be good, good, good.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday to an amazing youg woman but also Happy Birthday to an amazing MOM!

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday! You are young, strong, smart, apparently pretty darned funny and obviously amazingly talented! The world is now your oyster - go look for the biggest pearl you can find! Best wishes for the brightest future.
Tabatha (friend in Folsom)