Every time my daughter celebrates a birthday, memories of her birth, her childhood and her growing up come rushing back to me. Yesterday was one of those days. She turned twenty-four. My husband and I were meeting her and a friend at a restaurant for a birthday dinner. On the way, it started…
She was to be my second live birth. I had an emergency C-section to deliver my son just 26 months earlier. The pregnancy had been more intense, though, because I finally experienced morning sickness for the first time (having been pregnant three times before). There was exhaustion. There were cravings. And there were fears. I had two miscarriages before I had my son, and at an early point in the pregnancy, I was threatening to miscarry again. It passed, and I went on to have a normal full term pregnancy.
I also wondered what kind of parent I would be to a little girl. You see, I’m not enamored with things that most women like. I prefer spending my weekends watching football, for example. And I hate shopping. On the morning of her birth, I arrived at the hospital with regular contractions; however my doctors determined that it was safer to do the C-section. Epidural in, they wheeled me into the delivery room.
It was holiday time, so during the delivery, my doctors, who were planning a ski trip to the France, were practicing their French. I thought they had given me some other kind of drugs. When the music that was being piped in started playing “Alvin and the Chipmunks” singing Christmas songs, I was sure of it.
A few minutes later, they laid her on my chest. My first thought was how beautiful she was. Isn’t that true of most new mothers? My second thought was what will I do if she wants to go shopping during the super bowl?
My daughter eased into our lives. It was as if she belonged there all along. My son adored her, since she brought him a present when she got home from the hospital. She breast-fed easily, though willfully; she slept a lot the first two weeks. She was so sweet.
Then, as my husband and I like to put it, “All hell broke loose.”
While she was a late bloomer with walking and talking, once she got started, she never stopped. And that is true today. She seems to know everyone, everywhere. Why? Because she is an outgoing, erudite, educated, clever, and funny young lady. She is graced with altruism, poise and humility.
She was very girlish from the start. She loved pink and laces and princesses. She loved dresses and purses. She even put her Little Mermaid Dress on the dog. One of our fondest memories was when she got her Poppop to sit on the floor and play a game called “Pretty, Pretty Princess.” The image of him sitting cross-legged (despite his bad back) wearing a tiara and earrings is one for the history books.
Our daughter also is very tenacious. In her pre-teen and teenage years, she would delve into anything that sparked her interest. It started in fifth grade with a music class in the bells. We bought her the bells. They have been sitting in the corner of the living room for the past fourteen years, except occasionally when I try to fool the dog by playing a doorbell sound.
In sixth grade there was an interest in Goth. A very dark stage in her life, we didn’t allow her to go fully into this! There were no piercings or tats. There wasn’t even any hair dying. Thankfully this was a short stage.
Had it not been for a track coach she started talking to in the stands at one of my son’s baseball games, the next stage may not have occurred. Coach T. changed her life. He convinced her to join the Cross-country team in middle school, and then she became the expert on running. She pursued this vigorously, and joined the track team in the spring. When she ran her first 2-mile with her friend Francesca, and barely finished, we thought it was over. Instead, she became more immersed.
Added to that was the Yoga and the Chakras, on which she became the consummate authority. She drove us crazy explaining our behaviors in relation to the seven Chakras. She started attending an Ashram where Yogi Hari, became the guru, the expert, the pundit. She studied Eastern philosophies and knew it all.
One Sunday, I splurged on a standing rib roast because it had become a rare occasion for my entire family to be home for dinner at the same time, since my son was in college and my daughter was enrapt with so many extra-curricular activities. On this day, my daughter announced that she had become a vegetarian. Our concern was her nutrition. No worries. She read and studied all about it and learned about complete proteins and how many grams she can get from this or that… Again, she became the expert.
When she left for college, we had all kind of wonders and worries about what the next stage would be. She joined no clubs. She joined no sororities. She sampled a wealth of things but after a Birthright trip, she did develop a burgeoning love for Israel. She managed through her own ingenuity, to get back there for a three week trip, two years later.
During her senior year, our daughter was tested by a cancer diagnosis. As parents, there is nothing more painful. She, however, rose to the challenge. One day, on the way back to her apartment after a surgery follow-up, she told me that she was grateful for the cancer. I was stunned. My response was that I was grateful that it was caught early; I was grateful that she had wonderful doctors; I was grateful that there were no complications during surgery; I was grateful for her friend Mike, who played gatekeeper for us; and I was grateful that she had a wonderful prognosis. I was not, however, grateful for the cancer.
Graduated Magna Cum Laude, accepted into a graduate program, and having requested a deferment, our daughter informed us that she was going to be keeping kosher and that she was going to Israel for eight months to attend a seminary in Jerusalem for secular Jewish women who want to learn more and become Orthodox. Off she went.
We didn’t really know what to think. It wasn’t a bad thing. It just wasn’t the way she was brought up, nor was it the way we live our lives. A good friend and former supervisor of mine helped me understand much better by telling me to “reframe” how I look at it. She’s not becoming something different… she is going deeper into what was instilled in her in the first place.
Upon her return, once again, she had immersed herself in yet another endeavor. This one, however, is sticking. She had studied, she had learned and she was, for all intents and purposes, the family expert on Judaism. We had to laugh when she sheepishly admitted to us that she was eating meat again… because she loves cholent.
So the birthday dinner was lovely. The friend she had invited was Mike (the gatekeeper), who we love as a son, but will never be one because he isn’t religious enough for our daughter. And, the fact that he already has a girlfriend might have something to do with it.
On the way home, my husband and I reminisced some more. We laughed. We cried. We love our daughter… our Orthodox, outspoken, political, funny, clever, distance running, meat-eating beautiful daughter, who came into this world and will, most likely, have a great impact on it… maybe even before her next birthday.