The weather is a welcome treat this week. Warm and little snow. 25 and we go outside easily without coats. Hats and mittens are yet to come out.
In 2002 the first week of December brought below zero temperatures. Everyone who visited us during those five days in the hospital came in with red wind-burnt cheeks and their shoulders up bracing the cold and immediately mentioned how cold it was for so early in the year.
I glanced to the window and smiled not quite believing my luck to be holed up in a hospital with not quite five pounds of baby on my chest.
The week I became a mother.
Sometimes I think that Eloise was born an old lady. My real-life Benjamin Buttons. I’ve heard it all in these nine years – “she’s an old soul” “she’s not a normal kid” “why doesn’t she just go play” “she’s an amazing big sister” “she must be a great help” “she’s the kid that teacher’s dream about”
Sometimes I wonder if it’s too much for her to bear..to be born without an ego.
I look at this girl- who everyone said to handle with care – who could not handle change – and who would worry about everything – who is so much like her father – and I see a young lady…YES a young lady… who is nothing like what people said – A girl who went to five different schools in five years, who handled the birth of two sisters, the move of a house, the funeral of grandparents, the making of new friends, and a clearly imperfect mother – and I see this girl who is ready for a beautiful life of her own.
I see this girl who in kindergarten took a scared new friend and held her hand and told her that everything would be fine and they would be best friends. This girl who always finds that kid on the playground who is sitting alone – and asks them to play.
I see this girl who has never fought with her sisters. Who has never fought another child for a toy. Who would never take something from someone – even as a two year old. Who will always let you go first. Who will in a minute give-up her place in line. Who will drop everything she is doing if she hears her sister cry. Who will ask if I would like a coffee if she happens to be in the kitchen. And who will offer you the last cookie before taking it herself.
I see a girl who does not raise her hand in school – not because she doesn’t know the answer – but because to her it seems boastful. A girl that rarely talks about herself, but listens to what others have to say. I see a girl who rushes home from the bus so she can practice her piano for an hour – without me asking, but would probably not mention to you that she even plays. Very well. I see a girl who immerses herself in a novel and yet takes the time to read picture books to her sister. I see a girl whose best friend is her almost seven year old sister and sometimes they spoon when they sleep. They giggle in the shower.
This girl that I told when she was just three she needed to be more assertive and stand up for herself. Don’t be a doormat! Because her preschool teacher told me to. And this little girl looked up at me and said “why would I ever fight someone for something that clearly must mean more to them if they needed it so badly that they took it from my hands. It’s just a toy.” We never had that discussion again.
I see this girl who now wants to spend more time with friends. Who likes to walk to the bus stop by herself and wants her own room. I see this girl who I bet – no I really know – that if for some horrible reason she had to solely take care of her two sisters for a week(never would it happen) but I bet you my life she could do it. I trust this girl. Sometimes I believe she is not really nine. I see this girl who instead of presents at her birthday party is asking her guests to bring toys to donate to Toys 4 Tots because she gets that there are others who would get nothing for Christmas if we don’t help.
And I see a girl who is ready for the next part of growing up. The little girl years seem so easy now. The problems seem so silly really. I look at Astrid at two and sometimes I just laugh her issues off because I know – I see – “girlfriend – you are two – just wait until you are 12 – then I will pay attention to your issues.”
And I think about how wrapped up I probably was in Eloise’s two year old issues. And I feel bad for all firstborns and I hope they are a forgiving bunch – at least I know Eloise is. I thank her for what she taught me so I am a better mom to her younger sisters.
Gone are the twirly dresses and bright mismatched colors of a little girls wardrobes. Gone are the pigtails. I now see this young lady who chooses clothes like mine, music like mine and straightens her hair.
And I truly don’t miss that little girl anymore. She’s is still there in the back of my mind, in the many photographs and occasionally I catch a glimpse when there’s a dance party in the living room and flour on her nose when baking with her sisters. Why pine away for those years that have past when now I see before me this beautiful being who will one day very soon be an incredible woman living right here under my roof.
So it’s in this note today I am formally apologizing to you Eloise because I fear I am going to mess this shit like totally up during the next four years. Puberty. Periods. Boobs. Hair. Shaving. Tampons. Boys.
There is like so much stuff that you need to know and I am just sorry that I’m feeling like an idiot right now thinking about it. So forgive me while we stumble together.
And do me a huge favor and talk to your sisters about this kind of stuff when they reach that age – and I know you will do this – and probably push me out of the room and roll your eyes as you explain to them how badly I handled it. I can hear you now “let me handle this, Mom.” And I will walk out and cross myself as I thank heaven above for sending you my way.
Because what I love the most about you, Eloise…is that your heart is evidently too big for your tiny body because your ability to forgive and love unconditionally is beyond your years.
I just want you to stay sane, stay safe, stay smart and stay away from those stupid boys. Date a nice cello player. And while I will always, always be here for you – the wings you have grown my dear…well they suit you very well.
And it warms me every time I can still hug you against my chest and kiss your head because I know soon you will stand taller than me.
As I always knew you would.
Happy 9th Birthday, Sweet Eloise.
The world is so much better because you are here.