Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sixteen Years Ago Today, I Gave Birth to a Bad Ass.

And on this day in history sixteen years ago -- after a few days of labor -- I gave birth to a bad ass.

In other words, it's my oldest child's 16th birthday.

Now, keep in mind, that Dave is the third of four kids and I'm the baby of four. Neither of us are oldests. We know how to be bossed, but not how to boss. My daughter was born and she just kind of took over and we were relieved because, frankly, we had no idea what we were doing.

My daughter is intimidating. As a little kid, she'd goad me into causing a scene. "Are you going to take that back? Take it back. Demand a refund. Go on. Do it." She was captain of her all-boys soccer team a couple of years ago. She invented the expression, "If you do that again, I'll slap you inside your face." I still don't know what it means and don't want to.

At seven, I had her doing the trim work when painting a room.

At eight, she was putting on her shoes and I said, "Where you going?"

She said, "I'm going to ask our neighbor Alicia if I can borrow her blow torch."

Two winters ago, over break, she did learn how to weld and make iron sculptures with molds, doing iron pours ...

At ten, she designed and made her own clothes.

She can already work on art 9-5 and does so most of the summer, throwing pots.

When working with fondant, she created cakes and I created blue turds.

At the hippy school she went to in Delaware where she learned to knit (if not to read), she knit beautiful cool stuff and I knit a small circle.

When the dog ate the sofa, and I wanted to redo it and I said, "Think wildly. What would you do?"

Her first question was, "Can we hang it from the ceiling with chains and suspend wings to either end?"

My character Charlotte in The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted sits down in Notre Dame, looks up at the light coming in through the stained glass, bouncing around the high ceilings, and says something about how it's like swimming because we're underwater and all of that air and light is above us. That was my daughter's reaction.

When Otis was born, she was thirteen. I remember in those blurry days with a newborn, I would wake up to my daughter's face. She was heading off to school, but she wanted to tell me that she'd changed him, dressed him in a cute outfit, and laid a second outfit out on his changing table for me in case that one was barfed upon.

Before I left on this trip, we were talking, and I told her that she should live her life surrounding herself with people who say, "Do that thing you do with your brilliant mind. It's not about breadth. It's about depth. Go deep."

The truth is that having this child, my daughter, in my life has mined my soul. She's made me go deep -- so deep sometimes I feel like I'm swimming in a cathedral of her making, a cathedral of light, and I hold my breath because I love her so much I've forgotten how to breathe.