Today is gray. There are four colors in the palette outside my window...green tea olives and juniper bushes...the unnatural blue in the pool liner, the bland dead grass color that is echoed in the treeless branches and gray. The wind is swaying the plants and branches but otherwise nature is quiet. It is not raining...although it certainly looks like it wants to pour at any given moment.
Twenty years ago...it was pink. At approximately the same time I am writing this, I was reaching for a bundle of humanity that I was greatful had arrived unscathed. Her little face was scrunched up but her voice was clearly making itself heard and her feet looked like her father's. We had known that we were expecting a girl...primarily because I don't like being blindsided and she finally gave it up during the ultrasound.
She is the fourth first child that was a daughter on my mother's side, and she took her place in several four generations photographs that I am pleased that we thought to take. She was colicky and strong willed, but sweet and a good sleeper. She was a late walker but a big cuddler, and after getting the mechanics down...a decent eater.
As she grew, her hair changed from reddish brown to gold and her eyes opened to become a brilliant blue. When framed with the thick lashes bestowed on her by her father and when mascara was applied during her 4 year old dance recital, I saw the future in her little angel face. She was able to learn the dances and had a knack for gymnastics, but not enough interest in either to make it worth the hoops we had to jump through to just get her to classes. Those were the years that I was on the road a lot, and she didn't seem to mind missing out on organized activities...daycare seemed to be enough for her.
At the age of four, we enrolled her in the church's kindergarten program, and she attended for two years as we waited for one of the two private schools we desired to open up a spot for her. In first grade, she finally began attending Trinity Presbyterian School...our first choice...and from which she graduated in 2008. Her teachers loved her, but were a little taken aback by the fact that she was active and had a somewhat different way of seeing the world. Guess she inherited that from me.
After years of teacher conferences, we finally heard the fourth grade teacher and had her tested for Attention Deficit Disorder and found that she did not have a preferred mode of learning, nor did she process as quickly as her peers. So, math drills were horrific for her...but we taught her a few tricks of the trade...like looking for the easy ones. On her side was the ability to memorize anything...making bible passages and vocabulary words much easier for her than application knowledge.
As she entered junior high, it became apparent that she would be a lovely girl and she survived all of the orthodontics and contact lenses that come during these years. She grew more beautiful every year and became aware that beauty can also sometimes make you a target. Nothing is more difficult than watching grown women treat a young girl poorly as if she is one of their peers. I responded by checking out of friendships with them and befriending the mothers of the boys in her class because they had no dog in the fight.
In high school, she became enamored with someone who we became enamored with as well. Since then, she has dated several people off and on, but we refuse to get attached to anyone. We are waiting for the one who comes to discuss a few things with her Daddy one day before we go down that road again. And while we might like to know who he is...we are in no hurry. We already know that we will love him...because she does.
A little less than two years ago, we watched her walk across a stage and receive her high school diploma. Three months later, she walked into a dorm at the University of Alabama and out of our home. She chose Alabama over Auburn and Troy. She had been accepted to all three. A week later, she went through one of the largest sorority recruitments in the country and became a Phi Mu...like her mother.
The past year has brought us many new names and faces...of Phi Mu sisters that have come to visit and of young men who have been either suitors or friends. She has completed three semesters and is headed toward a degree in business. We are not entirely sure if this is what she wants or not...but this is the direction in which she has chosen to walk. I am confident that she will figure out how to make it work.
And today...my little girl is 20. She's in that crevice between a teenager and an adult...but just signed her first apartment lease. Granted, we have to guarantee it...but I felt the wind from that wing flap as I sit parked here in the nest. A nest that is becoming more empty by the day as her brother works toward completing his junior year of high school.
Twenty years ago today I became a mother. And like all other mothers I wonder...where has the time gone? But I know that - Lord willing - there will be days of Technicolor when we are all captured by her laughter. There will hopefully be a time when we watch her walk in white to be presented to Montgomery and then one day to a groom. There will be days of blue when she is sad and finds the world cruel, days of green where there is life and hope, and days of yellow when all is sunny, bright and full of possibilties. And I also hope that one day she has a day of pink like I did twenty years ago...and will pass on the family tradition.
I miss the little girl I held. I miss her hugs and her sweetness. I even miss the mundane tasks like brushing her hair and cleaning out her closet. But she is standing on her own two feet now...which is exactly where she is supposed to be.