She is turning 11 years old. I don’t remember what this feels like. I don’t even remember what the experience of being a little girl feels like, for that matter.
I do suspect that I was nothing like her.
There are days I come inside from the trailer in the backyard which doubles as my office, and I’ll see that she’s snuck herself in front of the television again. As I get closer to scold her and turn it off, I find enough crafting supplies at her hands to outfit a college art supply store. She is making things.
She is making puffballs out of old yarn to hot-glue to the goodie bags she made out of watermelon-adorned fabric for her own birthday party. She’s making the invitations to said party, out of construction paper, yarn, sequins and hot glue. She’s making a vision board. She’s making a ‘Thank You’ card for her step-dad, just because, which she then asks us all sign it…even the dog and chickens. She’s gluing sequins onto one of his dress shirts. She’s making a menu for her party – sushi – and a list of all the ingredients she wants in the sushi. Not satisfied with this, she breaks down every element of the day of her party, from sushi options to which cars will be driven to the skating rink after lunch, to which kids will ride in which car, and so on. She’s getting ready to get up and make some blueberry scones. From scratch.
My memories of youth involve me sitting on my own, reading or staring off into space, for hours. I had four older brothers but only rarely would one of them play with me. So I just…sat around. I never had a birthday party. Maybe I should have planned it myself?
This girl, she prefers company. If she feels she’s asked for but not received the quota of companionship she desires, she will create an environment for socializing. She will plan, pack, and prepare an entire picnic to be eaten on the front porch, including games for afterward. Or she will make place cards for everyone at the dinner table, with directions on the back to be used as conversation starters. My card might say “turn to the person on your left and compliment them about something.” She is known to regularly start a round of “tell us one good thing and one bad thing about your day.” She is a big fan of after-dinner card games.
I am much more comfortable, still, lolling around behind my book, and so if she has asked and asked for something more rigorous from me and it is one of the rare occasions when I’ve dug in my heels and insisted that no, it’s reading time, she will finally relent and head upstairs, grab a book, then come down to join me. Then she will call her brother to come down and do the same. She’ll call the dog to jump up on the couch with us. Her favorite stuffie and best friend, Marshmallow, gets nestled among the tangled books and bodies. It is the exact opposite of relaxing, but she makes it work.
I don’t even know how to explain this girl.
She is everything I have ever wanted to be.
Fierce. Unafraid of her own ability to make people laugh. Master of the side-eye. Unapologetically messy. Emotionally open in a way I couldn’t relate to until I was nearly 40 and had done many years of therapy. Don’t-Give-a-Fuck outfit ensembler. Clear in the knowledge that she will get what she goes after. Usually, that is candy at the mall. If you know me, you know I hate both candy and the mall, so the fact that she gets it, ever, tells you she is on some other level of ninja superhuman confidence, right there. This skill and knowledge will take her far, and I will be watching from the screeching tire smoke she leaves behind, proudly, and in awe.
If you know her at all, you know that the list goes on further than is necessary for me to report. I can’t even believe that I made this human by simply steeping her for ten months in cheese enchiladas, blueberries, a half glass of wine now and then and about eight thousand saltines.
After my Secondborn came into the world, my midwife said, “you’re never allowed to have a baby as big as this one was, okay?” and I said, “I’m never having another baby, so okay Roseanne, no problem.” Then I promptly fell asleep and nearly smothered my giant baby, because I gave birth in a real bed in a hippie birth center where no one checks on you for a while after the baby is born, so you can sleep. I’d pooped a lot during the birth, and I was exhausted from lying sideways on the bed, squeezing my knees together, trying to hold her in for hours beyond the time she was ready to come out. So when I fell asleep, I fell asleep hard, and I fell asleep just slightly on top of my brand new baby. Just a little bit. Just some side-boob and inner arm, maybe.
I think this is probably why she gets annoyed when I brush her hair. She’s like “don’t get your upper torso too close to me, bitch.”
When I woke up, I didn’t know where I was, and I rolled slightly more on to my back. I heard a sharp intake of breath. I looked down, and I saw my daughter. She was glaring at me.
My fucking warrior.