Monday, August 19, 2013

A child becomes a woman -- and I helped

My daughter's birthday is Friday. The other day when I was looking for something else, I came across some columns I wrote about her when I worked for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Here is one published August 22, 1983.


My daughter turns 18 tomorrow. We plan to celebrate by registering her to vote, then going out to lunch and generally making a fuss over her.

Eighteen. How did that happen? I remember the nurse putting that serene baby in my arms and my astonishment at her teensy perfect fingernails and tiny ears. She opened the most piercing blue eyes and looked right at me.

"Hi baby. I'm your mommy."

She went through college with me, learning to color in university libraries while I studied, playing with blocks while I typed papers. Only a couple times did she issue ultimatums. Once, during the week before finals, she raised herself up to her full 2-year-old height and pushed all my books off the kitchen table.

"No more books! Me!" she said.

I got the message. We went to the zoo and played for the rest of the day. The Houston Zoo was free, and we didn't have much money. We became fast friends with Oscar the Otter and learned to love the lions.

When I graduated and we moved to Fort Worth she was not yet 4. When I went to work at the Star-Telegram, l had to find a way to care for her. At Southcliff Baptist Church's day-care center we found Mrs. Travis, who made me feel my daughter was in good hands.

At the end of the first day, after worriedly rushing out to the church, I walked in and she asked, "Are you here already?" I decided we would both survive this. She stayed there until she was 11.

To those women at the church, I once again say thank you. The woman my child is, you helped to shape with your loving care.

The woman my child is...

Well, she's independent. She's smart, but she has no patience with things that bore her. She does not suffer fools gladly.

She has a temper worthy of her flaming hair. When she was little, and got angry with me, she would go into her room and close the door. Pretty soon, little pieces of paper would come sliding out.

"I'm very mad. Don't think you can come in here."

I'd write back, "Sorry you're mad. Let me know when you're ready to talk." 

After a while, here'd come another note.

"Do you love me? Check one box."

There would be three boxes drawn on the paper, one marked "More than anything in the world." Another would say 'A lot." The third would say "Most of the time."

I'd always check the first box with a big exclamation mark and slide the paper back into her room. Then she'd come out and hug me.

She handles her temper somewhat differently these days. She's more, well, vocal.

She is sentimental, and a true patsy for animals. She has a genius for line and color, and dresses with flair. She has a very organized mind and a sense of order, although looking at her room would cause one to doubt this.

She has a deep rooted sense of fairness. She still is youthfully unforgiving of people who don't live up to her standards, but her standards are worth aiming for.

She doesn't yet perceive the world in shades of gray.  With her, issues are delineated in black and white. It's interesting to listen to her think things through, though, for she often helps me see something I've missed.

Once she has a sure sense of what she wants, she doesn’t give up until she gets it. With things that are important to her, she doesn’t leave anything to chance. She plans and campaigns and lobbies with all the effectiveness of a Washington veteran.

She's taller than I am, and looks like her father, though sometimes I see parts of me echoed in her. Sometimes she likes thinking we are alike. Other times she wants distance and differences between us.

The years between 13 and 15 were not easy as she struggled to become her own person. There were days when I wondered if either one of us would live through that time.

She and I have been through some dark and scary times together and I'm not ashamed to admit there were days (and nights) when she propped me up and send back out into the fray.

On the days I come home depressed, she’s good at reassuring me that the world is worth the effort. When I’m grumpy, she has a good sense of when to leave me alone and when to jostle me out of the moodiness.

She still likes a hug now and then and is not averse to having me baby her from time to time, but then, she occasionally babies me too these days.

She can detect insincerity at 50 paces. She has been proven right in her impressions of people so often that I've learned to listen to her.

She drives me crazy with her messiness and her total inability to hang clothes up. She makes me want to strangle her with her whining some times. She irritates me when she tries to manipulate me with emotionalism and drama.

On the whole, however, l think August. 23, 1965, at St. Joseph's Hospital in Houston was a day worth celebrating. That serene baby has grown into a vital, assertive, interesting woman.

Happy birthday, baby.

Do I love you? More than anything in the whole world!


And I still do, sweetheart. And I have a lot of fun watching your oldest child act EXACTLY like you, especially the lobbying and the drama. Just sayin'. 

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