Wednesday, June 20, 2012

My Girl

When you’re 13, the last thing you want to hear is that you’re “just like your mother.” So, I won’t say it.
I won’t tell you that people say you look like me or that they “know” where you got your sassiness.
I won’t tell you how much I enjoy other people staring at us when we’re rocking out to Maroon 5 in my car. I won’t tell you that seeing you swish a 3-pointer makes my eyes burn with tears – because I know how many hours of practice it took for you to make that shot.
I won’t tell you that I love it when people tell me that you’re beautiful – from the inside out. I won’t tell you that even though you’re strong and independent, I love it when you need me. The best part of my day is sitting on your bed and listening to you talk about your day.

I know I’m old to you, but I remember being 13. I remember not wanting to be compared to my mom. (Mom, once again, I apologize.)  I remember trying to sort out friends and feelings – the real ones from the superficial ones. I remember the frustration of being independent on the inside and dependent on the outside.
Here's a short list of things everyone should know about My Girl:
• She has an infectious laugh. I dare anyone not to laugh with her!
• She is determined and works hard at everything.
• She is very feminine.
• She is insightful.
• She sometimes chooses to wear makeup but looks amazing without it.
• She loves music.
• Her family still calls her by the nickname her brother gave her years ago.
• She can fall asleep anywhere – under any circumstances. This gift is not affected by lighting conditions, weather, noise or objects.
• She is NOT a morning person.
• She got a correct answer on a Spanish test because of a word in a Lady Gaga song.
• When she was a toddler, she wore a pink tutu over her clothes everywhere she went. (Believe me, this one was not worth the battle.)
• She is a cat whisperer.
• Her big brother is one of her closest friends.
• She considers fried okra, bacon and cheese a balanced meal.
•  She can make friends with people of all ages ­– and has done so.

You were born with words on your fingertips. When you were 10 years old, you typed a note for me. I keep it on the bulletin board above my desk at work:
“Why I love my Mom,
1.     She feeds me; she takes to places and activities.
2.     She cares for me and is sweet and kind and she reads to me at night; she takes me on trips to Dallas or Arkansas or somewhere.
3.     She protects me and gets me things and buys me clothes and punishes me when I need to be.
4.     And more stuff than you can imagine is what she does and will do to me.
Your daughter.

Words I wrote on your fourth birthday: “You speak plainly and have something to say about just about everything. You light up our lives with your mischievous smile and big, bright blue eyes.”
You and I agree that you’re not “just like” anyone. You need to know ... when I first saw your precious face on June 21 just 13 years ago, I couldn’t even imagine the day you would become a teenager.
I’m not the least bit ready for this.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

17 Years On

As I write this, my son has 16 more hours to be 16 years old. It’s late, but he’s asleep. No lights under the door, just the sound of the fan whirring next to his bed.
Last night, I snuck into his room to watch him sleep. I could see a little of his nose and closed eyes peeking out from the sheets. Next to his bed: car keys, Star Wars wallet, loose change, several books. At his feet: his Russian Blue, the right paw tucked over his eyes. And one other thing in the room – manhood – just a step away.
My oldest child is taller than I am, of course. For me, he opens jars, mows the yard, lifts heavy objects, moves furniture, reaches for glasses off the highest shelf in the kitchen. Watches “Seinfeld.” Laughs at my jokes. (Nick, “they’re ALL chickens.”) Asks if I’m OK. Bear-hugs.
He still reads every night. He still drinks chocolate milk (called it “chocolate moot” when he was a toddler) every morning.
This year, he learned to drive. He made As in all his classes, including Honors Physics. He took the ACT. He was a page at the state capitol. He had his first car accident.
But here’s a short list of what everyone should know about him:
• He prefers a phone call to a text.
• He reads old-fashioned (paperback or hardback) books.
• He repairs things without being asked.
• He considers Glenn Beck a rock star.
• He always thanks me for dinner.
• He couldn’t care less about "name-brand" shoes.
• He quotes Ronald Reagan.
• He washes his own clothes.
• He loves hot wings, bacon cheeseburgers and root beer.
• He reads the Bible and prays every day.
• He’s an Eagle Scout who lives the oath.
• He is respectful.
• He holds open doors for everyone.
• He’s a protective and devoted big brother.
• He considers his “Nana” one of his best friends.
During this year – when chaos overtook the structure in his life and he got lost in the muddled remains of his parents’ marriage – his concern was always for his mother, his father, his sister and his grandparents. Somehow, he learned how to turn two houses into home. He never complained, but he took on more than a teenager should have to.
Every year, I write a letter to him on his birthday. He’s never seen any of them, but this is an excerpt from the one I wrote on his first birthday:
“On this night before you leave babyhood and enter toddlerhood, my hopes and dreams for you are many. Mostly, I just want you to be happy and healthy. I wish you tons of friends, love and laughter. I look forward to each stage of your life. I will always look back to my memories of you as a baby, but I know that each stage will have its own memories. My advice for this year: Please know that success does not mean being powerful or rich. Success means taking care of yourself and those you love. Listen to God. He will show you the way to go.”
So, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got my flashlight ready. I’m going to go look at him one more time. And pretend that it’s June 4, 1995 – the first day he was home.