Fatigue weighed heavily on my body as I stepped through the doorway. Blake ran to me smiling and giggling as he hurried my way. He was dressed in his preferred play clothes. At bedtime, I dressed him in pajamas, but each morning he awakened wearing nothing but his underwear. This morning was special, but not exceptional enough to wear clothes for mom and dad.
I walked to the leather couch, along the way; I dropped my heavy bag on one of the high-back tapestry chairs. Blake pursued me as he bounced on his tippy-toes, his hands balled into a fist and wearing his superman underwear. I landed on the couch as I positioned the bulky carrier on the floor. He was giddy; still on his tippy toes as he watched me gingerly lift the tiny bundle from the carrier. As I did, Blake’s big brown eyes glowed as he captured his first glimpse. His mouth pursed into a round circle as the sound, “Ohhhhh” escaped his lips. I smiled at him as his eyes and nose squished together and his lips spread into a wide grin.
He wiggled with anticipation and stretched out his arms. Even at twenty-seven-months old, he recognized the significance of the package I placed in his lap. His tiny hands held on tightly as he looked down; his brown eyes sparkled as he observed the amazing miracle lying in his arms.
“What’s her name?” I asked.
Without looking up, he replied, “Summer.”
It’s time to reeducate him. When we left for the hospital, her name was Summer. For as long as I can remember, I would name my daughter Summer Michelle. In the past seventy-two hours, it changed. I had delivered a baby girl, but she didn’t look like a Summer Michelle. She looked like a Blaire Kaitlin.
“No. It’s Blaire.” I replied.
Blake, showing minimal confusion, responded with pursed round lips, “Ohhhhhh.” It took three days to reverse months of telling him he would be a big brother to his sister, Summer. He wouldn’t even remember being confused if we didn’t retell the story.
Today, I’m the one confounded. Has it really been seventeen years and five months? Did I let my five-pound and fourteen-ounce baby girl accompany a seventeen-year-old-boy to the movie theatre last night? (He pulled up in a Mustang for heaven’s sake.) Did that same boy come to the house over the summer to help with her Government class? Is she really going to graduate in December instead of June? Yes! Moreover, an early graduation is perfectly Blaire.
At thirty-six weeks gestation, the doctors removed me from bed rest having successfully prevented a premature delivery. She was born that day. She has always been eager to accelerate to the next phase, the next experience. It couldn’t happen rapidly enough. She desires to touch, taste, and experience everything, NOW! She was like that with school too, kindergarten couldn’t arrive fast enough.
I remember the first week. I walked from one end of the kitchen table to the other. Blaire sitting at one end, Blake sitting at the other. The homework made Blaire anxious; it had to be perfect. I tried to alleviate the anxiety by encouraging her to relax. “It’s ok. It isn’t that important.” I contemplated to myself, “kindergarten homework shouldn’t produce such anxiety.” At the other end of the table sat Blake. I admonished and encouraged him as well. However, with different phrases like, “Blake, this is important. You need to take this more seriously.”
Then there was first grade. She marched her tiny body into the house, slammed her backpack on the table and rummaged through it desperately looking for something. For what, I was clueless. She was intense and determined. When she found it, with Blue’s Clues glasses hanging on her nose and sporting an adorable blond- bob-haircut, she marched toward me. With all the power her short, thirty-pound body could muster, she shoved a torn piece of paper into my hand as she rattled off specific instructions.
I opened the paper and sure enough, just as she said, there was a telephone number scribbled on it. The number belonged to a classmate’s mother. Blaire was angry, indignant even as she explained that her teacher had
accused an innocent boy of disrupting the class by talking. Blaire was present! She saw it! She heard it! She demanded a correction! She was unsuccessful at convincing the teacher. Thus, she instructed the classmate to give her his mother’s number. “My mother will call your mother!” she assured him.
Third grade was rife with bus driver drama. She wore an expression that has become familiar to us, one of determination, intent on righting a wrong. She believed the principal should reprimand the driver and she developed a plan of action. She requested a video camera to document evidence for the principal. (Because, in third grade, the principal is the ultimate authority in all things school related.) After learning the district doesn’t permit cameras, she developed a backup plan. She would stop the principal in the hallway and argue her case and so she did. She had witnesses in tow for confirmation. Her assertion? The bus driver was unfit for bus driving duty because she was dishonest to the police officer, twice. Blaire explained how the driver indicated to the officer that her traffic violations were a result of the rowdy children. “Not true!” complained Blaire. In addition, she was unfair to the students, not to mention, mean.
Do not mistake her drive for justice as being a tattletale. She is far from it. She has a fervor for justice coupled with an unmitigated conviction to safeguard those matters shared with her in confidence. She seeks autonomy that is free of injustice by those in authority, paving the way for privacy and individuality. I have often referred to her as “judge of the household.” However, as I watch these characteristics develop and help direct her passions enabling her to reap the most rewarding outcomes, it occurs to me, perhaps “activist of the household” is more apropos. It’s a facet of her character that I admire most and the one I’ve argued with the most over the years.
In seventh grade, while in a debate with Blake, she shredded his argument with the response, “You have just stated an opinion and opinions aren’t facts. That’s why they’re called opinions.” I observed the interaction from the next room and silently declared that round for Blaire. When Blake stood up to walk away, (which signaled to me, he knew he had lost) he restated his opinion. She instinctively knew one couldn’t argue with opinions so she turned around, threw her arms up in frustration and hollered, “Mom?” At that point, I openly declared the round for Blaire. (Go ahead. You debate her. I dare you!) Seriously, I couldn’t be more proud.
When I look at her, I still see my little girl who wore SpongeBob and Tweety Bird backpacks. The world observes her differently. I learned this on our last excursion to the shopping mall as we moved from one department store to the next. Those hipster young adults working the counters would tell her, “You could model that outfit. I wish I could wear beanies.” Her first week at Tookies, a woman stopped her and said, “Don’t think this is weird, but I think your skin is flawless!” Yesterday upon entering tutti-fruity for yogurt, someone she knew moved around the counter exclaiming, “Blaire, you look so beautiful. I love your hair!” as she quickly delivered a hug. The world doesn’t see my little girl; they see a beautiful, confident young lady.
With a December graduation, her senior year, in perfect Blaire style, is half over. This morning when she opened the door to leave, I repeated the statement I have uttered since kindergarten, “Make good choices today.” Inwardly, I’ve dreaded this day because I know senior year is dress rehearsal. It will not be long before the door opens and the school of life will be waiting on the other side for which I pray I have educated and equipped her to conquer, succeed, overcome and make good choices.
I’m not one to agonize over the months on the calendar and how rapidly they trundle past me. Nevertheless, as I write this, I possess the impulse to seize time. If I could stop the phases of the moon, I would. Has it really been two-hundred-and-nine-months since her birth? The lines on my face attest it has. I want time to stop. I want it rolled back. That maternal dichotomy, hanging on, letting go persists and with it, panic. I feel myself grasping for a do-over, kindergarten, first-grade, Blues Clues.
Unfortunately, time is like a wave my center of gravity cannot withstand as it crashes into me. It washes over me, stealing the air from my lungs. I blinked. The days rolled into weeks, which rolled into months, which rolled into years. I must accept the inevitable or drown trying to fight it, thus I concede. Although I’ve spent the past twenty years convincing my children that Mom is an immovable object, I know better. I have always known better. I couldn’t stop the phases of the moon. Time, that unstoppable force, compels me to move out of the way. I do so reluctantly, knowing the next season of life is upon me and it’s time to prepare for a new chapter.
Sharon Buhman 8/22/2016
Blaire, when I prayed and asked God for a daughter, you are exactly what I prayed for.