Eleven years ago, today, you were nearly ripped from me because your heart was stopping because….I don’t know. The epidural was making it hard to push? You were stuck?
Regardless, thanks to advanced medical technology, a device that is called the “vacuum” but does not have an actual motor on it, and a brilliant doctor, you were brought into the world…a little blue….maybe a little freaked…or at least I was.
But, eventually, you were wrapped in a blanket, brought to me, and you rested on my chest and stared blearily at a world unrecognizable to you. I probably cried. I can’t remember. I know I had a horrible case of the shakes and was terrified that I was going to drop you. I remember that your father, who hates having his picture taken, asked the nurse to take a picture of him holding you.
Two days ago, your heart was nearly broken. This destroys me, my beloved daughter. Because eleven years ago, you were born with a heart murmur. I didn’t worry then. You had an incredible pediatric cardiologist who drew a really cool picture of your heart complete with the tiny hole that was in it and gave me the reassurance that you could do anything you would want. You could be an Olympian. You could be an astronaut.
But you struggle, dearest daughter, with finding your way into the hearts of the girls in your class. I know that in Girl Scouts, you have thought about leaving because you don’t feel like you fit in. And I understand. I didn’t fit either. I know what it is to be a triangle in a world populated with squares and circles.
The hole in your heart repaired itself. The faulty fibers found one another and the tiny gap in the ventricle closed and the whisper your heart made quieted and eventually fell mute. But that doesn’t stop your heart from cracking when people make careless comments about you or in your presence.
My girl, my beloved girl, my precious girl, today, humanity showed its brilliant colors through my students and former students. Today, Rachel came to me with a lovely gift for you. She had read about your struggles. She understood your struggles. She knows what it means to be a triangle in this world of square pegs and circular holes and nothing feels quite right. She knows what it is to love with her entire heart only to feel the ridges of people’s fingers curl around it and slowly start to collapse inward, regardless of the living, beautiful being within it.
Today, Jacob wrote you a note to express his hopes that you will have a joyful birthday. Jacob is an incredible gentleman who might never meet you. But he cared about you. Cared for you. Because he saw on my white-board-calendar that today was your birthday and the first thing he asked was if he could write you a birthday note/card. I gave him my stationary and Jacob poured from his gigantic, loving heart words that were meant to show compassion to a young girl.
Hannah brought cupcakes to Writers’ Guild. But she deliberately brought too many. Because she, like Rachel, had read about the grief that was given to you as an unwelcome birthday gift and could not bear that you were grieved. I have pictures of you and Hannah together, at last year’s Baccalaureate in which Hannah spoke about wisdom and compassion…she knows. She understands.
My darling daughter, you are on the cusp of moving from little girlhood into “pre-teen” years, something you yearn for. This is when the limits of “no make-up” will start to loosen and you will eventually be able to smear mascara on your eyelashes and brilliant colors on your eyelids. And I will watch you, helplessly, as you try on femininity and flaunt and flounder your way until you understand your style, your identity, and the shape of your shadow.
I don’t understand the feminine. I don’t understand purses and make-up. But you want it and because you want it I want it for you. But I don’t know how to guide you and God help me, I don’t want to make a mistake that will shatter your beautiful heart.
You are about to leave the beautiful confines of your elementary school where you have lived for six years, where people joyfully call out your name and will guide you through the halls and will reward you for standing up to bullies…or standing up for others. For that is you, dearest daughter. You choose to stand up and not allow others to hurt people.
But who will stand up for you in the locker room next year? Who will stand up for you when you walk the half mile from your school to my school? Who will stand up and protect your precious heart that might not have any more holes in it but can easily be perforated by other people’s actions and words?
I don’t know their names, your future protectors. But I can only imagine that your knights in shining armor will come bearing little gift bags and will have a brilliant smile like Rachel. Or he might have a gorgeous belly laugh that ripples throughout the classroom and makes everyone temporarily forget their problems, their trials, or their pettiness….much like Jacob. Or she might have an indomitable spirit with a side of wit and poetry…much like Hannah.
My beloved daughter. My darling daughter…..
If I could, I would hold your heart in my hands, much like how I used to cradle you against my body when you were a baby and were nursing. Much like how I cradled you against me when you were sobbing with fear because I had temporarily escaped the edges of your peripheral vision. Much like now when the concavity of my cheek can still perfectly match the crown of your head.
But I must also know that for you to grow I must trust the world not to destroy you. I must open my hands and the tight circle of my arms which could so easily become a shackle and let you walk independently.
But when someone breaks your heart..because it will happen no matter how hard I will put up the warning signs and give the threatening, baleful “Mama Bear” glares, you will not be destroyed. Because you will always have your father and me. And you will also always have people in your life like Rachel, like Jacob, like Hannah, like Jennifer, like Megan, like Sarah, like Kieran, like Lauren, like me, like your father, like the doctor who resuscitated you, like your cardiologist, like….