The Birthday Extravaganza Weekend of 2005 has drawn to a close. There are big dolls and medium dolls and little tiny dolls. There is a Polly Pocket mermaid aquarium where the little fish will actually swim around when you fill it with water. There is a pretty pink outfit with matching hair bows and a beautiful bathing suit and oh, the books and crafts and kits. It’s enough to keep a 7-year-old busy for quite a while.
Chickadee is 7 whole years old. I have not strangled her, nor sold her to the gypsies, nor traded her for goods or services that are a better return on my investment.
I think I deserve the mermaid aquarium thing. Or at least another piece of cake.
I’d have to say that the last few days are the most solid block of “up” time my daughter has had in a very long time. It is bittersweet, to see her so happy, while knowing that it’s not likely to last. But it’s a soothing balm for that part of me that aches when she aches, even if only temporarily.
So what can I tell you about the birthday girl, now that I have known her for seven years? What has been most in my mind, these last few days?
Chickadee was born with a headful of black hair. I alternately referred to her as my little gorilla baby and pretended her hair was a tiny, terrible toupee. The hair fell out and grew in blonde, then gradually darkened. At seven, her hair is definitely brown. Not as dark as mine, but no longer blonde. It suits her. She is perhaps not beautiful or perfect by traditional standards, but I can glimpse the young woman she will become, and she is stunning. Especially when she smiles.
Chickadee received a lot of writing-oriented kits for her birthday, and one of the little girls at her party said to her (as she unwrapped one), “Cuz you’re so smart and good at reading and stuff, we thought you’d like that.” The other girls agreed, and Chickadee was simultaneously struck bashful and clearly pleased. She’s still glad to be smart. I will certainly try to beat the snot out of the person(s) who manage to rob her of that, but right now, she’s just right. She doesn’t brag or show off, but she’s proud of herself. It’s wonderful to see.
She reads to her little brother. She lets him pick a book, and she gets him all cozy next to her, and she reads with great expression and always gives him plenty of time to look at the pictures.
I don’t think that top tooth is ever going to grow in. But she can take her own shower, and brush her own hair, and pick her own clothes. She wants to do EVERYTHING herself and I have to tell her “let ME be the mom” and “ya know, if you’re so sure you can handle all of this, maybe you could go get a JOB” while she rolls her eyes at me.
I yell at Chickadee more often than anyone else. I’m ashamed to admit that. There are buttons, between mothers and daughters, you know. She is already a master button-pusher. But she knows ALL of my buttons. She can stop me in my tracks and make me laugh until my sides ache. These days, she exercises that talent more and more. She delights in this power over me, and I am powerless to stop her, because the truth is that when we are laughing together I see the best of myself reflected in her. And I see the girl behind the demons.
I wonder what she’ll be like in another seven years. I wonder what I’ll be like, then. Seems a lifetime away. Then again, I’ll blink a couple of times and it’ll be here.
My beautiful daughter, who is so often unhappy for reasons I cannot grasp, concluded her birthday this evening by going to bed in tears. What goes up must come down… and she crashed hard. I knew it was coming. I hugged her tight and brushed away her tears and told her it was time to sleep a 7-year-old sleep for the first time… and hurried out of her room before she had time to process that that meant nothing at all, really.
Happy birthday, my sweet Chickadee. I love you even though you broke your underwear drawer (for the third time) and there are dirty socks all over your floor. Last week you insisted on carrying around a plastic Easter egg and talking to it, sitting on it, and declaring that you were working on “hatching a chickling.” I can’t wait to see what you hatch next.
* Don’t get the title? Go read A Birthday For Frances right now.