Saturday, August 01, 2015

Happy Birthday, Socks

Socks is eight. Liv is 16. Tinton is here visiting for the weekend. I just had my 5th chemo round on Wednesday.

I'm so very tired, but hanging tough. I can do this. Yesterday, I went to the clinic to get a hydration bag and a shot to boost up my white blood cells. The joint was jumping. Two women were there for their last rounds of chemo. When you finish your last round, you are supposed to ring the bell and then everyone claps.

The woman sitting beside me looked wearily over at me and said, "I think I might be too tired to ring that damn bell."

I smiled. Told her that I'd ring it for her but I was too tired, too.

We shared a moment that only chemo people share. That extreme weariness that no one else gets. Her husband, a farmer who brings her in his jeans and blue shirt, sat next to her, reading his newspaper, his head showing a white circle where his cowboy hat usually is. She looked over at him and before she could ask, he was jumping up to get her some water. He's a Bing. We're lucky. We know that. There is the woman who comes in with her husband and he spends the whole time talking on his phone, knocking out deals, ignoring the half awake woman sitting next to him with the cracked lips. The rule is that someone has to bring you to chemo. This guy often drops her off and picks her up. It kills me to watch her limping out of here on her own. Other chemo drivers often help her to the front door. Chemo is hard. No one deserves to do it alone.

Eventually, the woman next to me had her bag emptied and her husband helped her to the desk where she rang the hell out of the bell and then burst into tears. In April, this would have mortified me, embarrassed me. I am not the sort of person who likes public displays. But, now...brought to my knees by chemo, I clapped with everyone else and my eyes watered as the nurses came over to hug her, praise her brave spirit. And her husband's face. I looked at the pride and pain on her husband's face. He had walked next to her all the way. It matters. It matters.

I came home and there was Tinton outside working the grill. I caught a whiff of hamburger and made a point to breathe through my mouth. He waved and motioned to the cooking meat, the ears of corn, wrapped in foil, the two cans of baked beans and the loaf of garlic bread.

"Was this a bad idea? Bing thought it might be too much for you...."

I said no, of course not. But, no hamburger for me, please. I was sticking to an Atkins Shake for dinner.

Bing brought out a huge salad and set the picnic table. She hugged me. Could I sit at the table with everyone? Would it be too much? I said it would be fine. Thought to myself that it probably would be. If not? Well? It wouldn't be.

Socks was our guest of honor and Liv happily crushed up a hamburger for him on his own little plate. We all sang Happy Birthday to him as he ate heartily. And then he wanted to sit on my lap. It only lasted a short while. Hamburger breathing dogs and chemo girls aren't a good fit. But, I did scratch his ears for a while. He is eight now, 56 in dog years. Just one year shy of me. And he is our good boy, our family protector, our sweetie, the best dog we've ever known. This dog would die for us and we for him. I used to quote Bruce Springsteen's quote about dogs at one time. That a dog is your child until you have a child and then they are just your dog.

And then there was Socks. And he is not just our dog. He is a family member. He knows when I have had chemo because when he sniffs at me, he frowns. But, he never turns away. He hunkers down and stays. He cuddles up to me, probably breathing through his mouth like I do when he eats hamburger. I hope he catches that pesky squirrel one day. The one who taunts him. I don't think Socks would harm it. He'd just twirl it around by it's mangy tail and then let it go and laugh. Socks is a believer in karma, but he's not mean spirited.

After dinner, Liv and Tinton washed up while Bing took Socks for his after dinner walk. I laid on the sofa, reading and eventually fell asleep to the sounds of Liv and Tinton laughing in the kitchen, and then dancing in the hall to some song by Kid Cudi singing about the pursuit of happiness. I heard some dirty words in the song and tried to muster the energy to object, but they looked so sweet there, sliding along side each other, dancing and laughing. Let it go. Let it go.

I awakened when I felt Socks paws against my arm. I patted the sofa and he hopped up with me, tired from his walk, smelling like grass. We dozed for a while. Later, Liv came in to say that she was headed out to see a movie with her friends and then stopping for sushi. See ya later, sweetie. She leaned down to kiss my cheek, left her sticky residue of grapefruit lip gloss.

When I awakened an hour later, Tinton was sitting across from me reading a book on Zen. I asked him what he was learning. He smiled lazily, my Tom Mison, Icabod Crane.

"I'm supposed to live in the moment and count my current blessings," he said. And then he pointed to me. "I count you, darlin. How're ya doin?"

I said fine and got up shakily. Chemo makes for unsteadiness. My balance is often compromised. Bing rushed in from somewhere to help me up the stairs after I said my goodnights to Tinton, who promised to wait up for Liv.

"She's promised to bring me home sushi," he said. "She better."

The shower seemed harder than it should be. Bing got in with me, holding me up. It was not yet dark yet, only 8:30, but the days are getting shorter.  As she soaped me up, I told her that I needed to get out to the garden this weekend. Luckily, we've had good rain this week, so no watering needed. The days are so hot, though, mid 90's. She shampooed my bald head and I asked her why she bothered.

"You have a few hairs up there, moonshine," she said.

I am cleaned, finally and we got out and she dried me, carefully, like a caretaker.

I felt myself close to tears. We haven't made love in weeks. I've just been so tired. I must be so unattractive, drooling asleep on the sofa.

She must've sensed this because suddenly she kissed me on the lips, fiercely. Loverly.  I smiled. Better. That made me feel better.

Soon, I was tucked up in bed. Curled into the pillow. Bing looked down and told me that Socks was here. Do I want company or not? I said sure and she lifted him up and he curled next to my leg. I scratched his ears.

One kiss. Two. And she was gone. Off to play chess with Tinton, she said. They'll both wait up for Liv. I talked softly to Socks for a while.

"So, how does it feel to be 56?" I asked him. He grinnned sweetly at me.

Told me, in his Ernest Borgnine voice that 56 is nothing, just a number. And then he nuzzled my hand, urged me to sleep, to go find a good dream.

It was not yet nine on a Friday night. My dog was next to me. My daughter was out driving on her own at last, going to a movie and then out for sushi. My wife was playing chess with my daughter's Father and I was off into chemo dreams about searching for Japanese dinner plates at my best friend's home.

The dark came and life was moving with me struggling just to hold on to the tails of it. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

A card waiting on her bed

I decided not to tell her that I violated her privacy. There were things in that notebook that should only belong to her and I was wrong to take that away from her. And I think if she knew (she doesn't know about this blog) that I read even a small bit of her writing, it would hurt her so much. Maybe someday, when she's like...30...when and if she has a child of her own, I will tell her. Maybe never. Or maybe she'll read this blog after I am dead and gone and will hate me just for a second and then think on her own children and understand.

What I did do was write a letter to her and put it in her 16th birthday card. I always get her a just from Mama card every year and write a little somethin somethin in it. And then, I always put a 20 dollar bill in it and tell her to go buy some coffees on me.

So, she is expecting this.

This is what I wrote:

Dearest Livvy pie,
I can't believe you are 16! (I've said that in EVERY card since she was 10. "I can't believe you are 10! I can't believe you are 15!....)

Wasn't it yesterday when I used to put you in your little red wagon, The Flyer, and pull you to the library? Now, I thumb through the books you haul home on your own, trying to read some with you to stay in contact with you. Some we even still read together. I like those ones the best.

And that is the key thing for me: staying in contact with you, in touch. I always want to be the one that you can talk with, share with, just be grouchy with. But, I do understand that there are some things that need to just stay with you and not be shared with me. And I get it, I do. But...take some advice from your old Mama, yes?

1) Riding in cars with boys is fun, but it can get scary if you pick the wrong boy. Always know that you can call me anytime and I will come get you, no matter how late it is, where you are, no matter the situation. And you don't even have to explain if you don't want to. Just tell me it got complicated and you needed a ride and I will shut my trap and just drive. Promise. Hand over my heart.

2) Remember that there are things that you can't easily come back from: not using a condom, trying a drug that you have never heard of or are kind of scared to try. I didn't fall off that turnip truck yesterday, darlin. I learned these things the hard way because NO ONE TOLD ME. I know that you will probably experiment with drugs. I just ask you to be very, very careful. I also know that you will probably drink alcohol. Again, just be so careful. If I had my druthers, you'd stay away from both of them until you're 30, but it's not happening, is it? So...sweetie...think carefully before you imbibe. Promise me? And we have already had the "sex" talk, so I won't go into it again. I know that YOU know all the reasons to use a condom, all the reasons to wait to have sex until you are older and that you will make the right decision for you. Just remember, please, that unprotected sex can damage your body and result in an unplanned pregnancy. An unplanned pregnancy results in three ways: either you have an abortion, which would be devastating for someone as young as you are, or an adoption, which is equally devastating, or....a human child to raise. I can tell you that raising a child is not for the anyone under the age of 25. And I even have my doubts about the 25-30 set. It is HARD and not for those who still have so much to experience. Once you have a child, your life revolves around that child. Have your fun first. Get your education first. Promise me?

3) You have it harder than other kids. You have two Mothers and one Father. You have handled this beautifully and thank goodness you live in a more enlightened generation than I grew up in. You have not been teased overly or hurt too much. But, still...I know it is a lot to deal with. I hope you know how proud I am of you and your way of handling life in general with such a cool mind, heart and soul. When I was your age, I did not possess half the strength of spirit that you have already shown.

4) I'm here. I'm always here. I have NO plans to leave anytime soon, so never fret about that. I plan to go to every stinkin one of your graduations, and if you marry, I will be in attendance, too. Even if you marry a Republican. But, I will wear black....just kidding! I will support you NO MATTER WHAT. Remember that I'm the one who has allowed you to attend Catholic Academies since 7th grade and you know how hard I fought for you to go to a Montessori! I know that you will always do what is best for you and I will stand to the side, smiling. Because I trust your instinct. As my Mother, your sainted Irish Grandmother used to say: "I didn't raise no cowards." No, I didn't. You are courageous and smart and sweetnatured and full of beans and I wouldn't have it any other way.

I love you so much, Liv. No words work. I love every hair on your head and every bit of jam on your toes. You are my best day, my best work and my favorite song. It has been such an honor to be your parent.


Sunday, July 26, 2015

What's a Mother to do?

Well, I should have NEVER looked. Privacy is important in our house. We take it seriously. I expect mine. Bing expects hers. Liv should get the same respect.

Except I am her Mother. She is my child. And ok, I looked. She writes in notebooks. Keeps them tucked away in her closet. I've known that they were there since she was in 8th grade and I've never so much as peeped.

But, last night, missing her, I wandered into her room and picked up the top notebook. Started reading. And then, in turn, delighted, horrified, angered, proud and curious, I kept reading.

My daughter is not as innocent as I thought. She is a complex human being. With complicated feelings. Mostly towards me, sometimes toward Bing. She harbors a love of her Father that is not impeded by day to day existence with him. She sees him much less, so he seems much nicer. She writes about wanting to emulate him, his quietness, his peaceful nature.

About me, she is more conflicted. Some days she waxes almost poetic about me, about how courageous I am, how her friends tell her that she is so lucky to have such a cool mom. Other times she is embarrassed of me, of the way that I become "wildly verbal" about causes. And yet other times, she speaks of how she wishes that she could crawl into bed with me at night to talk, but there's Bing to deal with. She knows that I will kick Bing out to make room for her and that troubles her, she doesn't want to invade our marriage in that way. She speaks within two pages of how I am the best listener, her sage, the one with the best advice and then two pages later I am "acting like a know-it-all" when I don't know that whole story.

But what scares me the most is that I have always seen my daughter as a very prudent child, not one predisposed to drink or try drugs. And although she never writes directly about it, it's pretty clear that she has experimented. She is not yet 16. This terrifies me. I know the stock she comes from. I was really innocent until I got to college and then I sort of went hog wild. I think I tried every drug known to man and woman and I drank every single weekend without fail. This carried into my 20's and even my 30's. I never let it affect my school work or my career. But, when I got home? I was a party girl. In college, it was not uncommon for Bing to carry me home from bars or parties. When I was in my career, I can't tell you how many times I left a party with some guy or gal and could not remember their name the next day. It is truly amazing that I never got pregnant or caught a STD. And I was educated! I knew better. I've never actually hidden these facts from Liv, but I have tried not to be too forthcoming with them either. Even though her birth came after I had gone through an intense cleaning up period, she is still the product of an unplanned coupling. A surprise.

I can't tell you how badly I DO NOT want her to be like me in that respect. I look back on those days with such pain. I was so lonely and yet surrounded completely by people, even sought them out. It wasn't until I decided that I did not want to live my life this way and I took a long cold look at myself in the mirror and CLEANED THE FUCK UP that I found my authentic self, the person that I am now. And I like her SO much more than the party girl. I barely recognize that person anymore. Who was THAT?

So, when I read that some boy sent her this video, I went right to you tube to look it up:

And I just sat there, stunned.

The boy is long gone. A suitor who we seemed to constantly be stumbling over for months. Who sent Liv flowers. Who asked her to prom by putting a sign in our yard. Who ate dinner with us countless times. Now, I feel like I want to punch his head off. And if Bing or Tinton ever saw that video? He would be in big trouble.

I watched the video, felt horrified and then told myself to calm down. That it didn't mean anything. That boys are stupid. And Liv DID write that she was so tired of his constant "pressure" and they broke up soon after. But, what rings in my ears is that she is not even 16! (Ok...she is just days away...but TECHNICALLY she is not yet 16.) I think of how Sven is back in her life and while he is almost weirdly careful not to sit too close to her, not to be alone with her, he is still there.

And how do I talk to Liv about this? What do I say? "Oh, by the way, sweetie, I ran across this reference to this video when I was reading your private journal...."

I have dug my own grave here. I should have respected her privacy. My Sisters, who have all raised teenage daughters have always told me that it is best not to know everything. That if we did, we would lose our minds. I always inwardly scoffed at that. Thought that there would never be secrets between my daughter and I. That I've worked hard to have an open and honest relationship with her. But, now....I have no idea how to bring this up.

Any ideas? And yes, I stopped myself from reading further. I put the notebook back and have not even gone into her room again. Her privacy is safe again.

But, I feel as if she and I need to have that "talk" now and I don't have the slightest idea how to approach this. I could use some ideas. And I have already thought about and tossed the "get her to a nunnery" one.....

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The bridges that carry us over

For me? It is books, gardening, and television. This wacky ass cancer journey that I am on demands that I find a place to hide, to get away from IVs and bad news and puking and diarrhea and basically feeling like I've been hit by a truck.

I haven't been able to lose myself much in friends. I have them, but it's hard for them. I mean, there I am, sitting all bald in front of them. Looking like I'm wasting away. Falling asleep during conversations. Looking down at casseroles they bring and suddenly the smell of meat just nauseates me and I have to set the dish down gingerly and run to the bathroom to throw up. They mean well, but the conversation always drifts back to "How are you feeling?" or their eyes well up and they tell me that I am brave, that I am courageous.

Mostly, I think, they are just profoundly grateful that it isn't them. And I get it, I do. But, even my best friends, even my Harriet, looks at me and chokes sometimes. Worried that she will lose me. We can joke as darkly as we can, but that thought sits there. The proverbial elephant in the room.

The only three people who I am totally me with are Bing, Liv and Tinton, Liv's Father. People who know me better than I know myself and still somehow love me deeply. I laugh at texts that Liv sends me daily. Today, she sent me a photo of her shooting a crossbow with the caption. "You always said I was Rue. I just may be Katniss." The crazy thing? She looks like she was meant to shoot a crossbow. Looks comfortable. Bing is Bing, never changing. Always herself. I asked her once if she ever considered my death. She looked me right in the eye. "Never," she said. "I never even considered it. I am going first. I decided that long ago. It's selfish, but I don't want to be here without you. Any world without Maria has no interest for me."  And Tinton? He is my calm in every storm. Never faltering. Always assuring me that he will always take care of Liv if I cannot. That he will step up, if needed. But, in the same voice, he says, "Just don't get any ideas about leaving us, though." 

So, I fall into television. Bing and I are slowly working through the latest episodes of Orange is the New Black and House of Cards.  And then, last week, Bing said, "Let's try Transparent." We do. It is hilarious and poignant and gives me much to think about.

Books, too, help me through. I need to lose myself in another place, other worlds. I just started Go Set a Watchman. Still not sure what I think. It is so different from To Kill a Mockingbird that I would never have believed it was written by the same author if I didn't know ahead of time. I will have to wait until I am further into it to decide.

And I am listening to this book on tape in my car: 

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler. I am so engrossed in it that I have been known to just sit in my car listening long after I've reached my destination. I will hear a sharp rap on the window and there will be Bing or Liv, a question in their eyes. Or I will almost miss my first appointment at work because I sit fascinated, listening in my car.

I love it when a book beguiles me like that.

And then there is my garden. I have been known to wander into the thick of it and just sit down, listening to the tomatoes discuss life with the pole beans. Mostly, I just sit and feel the thrum of life in all those roots, those vines. I reach out and touch fat tomatoes, slender beans and peas that are ripe for snapping. I deadhead my roses, tuck coffee grounds into my lilies of the valley and run my fingers over the daisies, feeling them shiver at my touch, How they love being adored by me. How I love being adored by them. It is a mutuality. We find so much beauty in each other. I find peace in my garden, a tranquility, especially on soft Summer evenings, when we are just a little sleepy, glad to be done with the sun.

Everyone has bridges that cross them over. What is yours?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

First photo on Maria's blog.......blame Jocelyn.

So, I came home from work yesterday and there was this package waiting for me from up North.

Bing handed it to me. "You have a girlfriend in Minnesota?" she said. "And she's sending you gifts?"

I glanced at the return address and smiled. "Well, I kinda sorta have a crush on her writing, so does that count?"

I ripped that sucker open.

And there was....this gorgeous book. One I had read good reviews about and was on a waiting list at the library to get.

As we say on the prairie....Boy Howdy! This was a treasure. From a treasured friend. You may have read her blog. If you haven't, go there RIGHT now. She is a wild whirling dervish of madcap funny, dead serious and writes with such gorgeous prose that you will be pulled in. I promise.

Jocelyn's blog

I went outside to the adirondock chairs to take a gander and Bing came out and took my photo. I hate it, of course. But, hey...I showed you my mastectomy scars, I can show you my bald head. And swollen-with-steroids face. And my serious reading glasses. And arthritic 9 1/2 fingers, ringless because they swell up at the end of the day. Somehow, my nose seems huge to me. Thank GOD you can't see my butt. I truly do look better with hair and an unswollen face. But, since I don't do photos on my blog because of my pee butt stalker, this will have to do. It is only me until the damn chemo is over and done with.

I also have a lovely dress that fellow blogger, Joanne (she has a grand blog, as well....go take a look-see and you'll be glad: Joanne's blog  ....) made for me. I don't get to wear it anymore, though, because my thieving daughter stole it. She is about a foot taller than me, so what is a nice, proper knee length dress on me, is a hot little mini dress for her. And truthfully, she looks much better in it than I do. It is currently at a lakeside about five hours away with Liv while she vacations. It is her "casual, classy going-out-to-dinner frock." Joanne, if I ever post a photo of Liv on here (when pigs fly),  you will see how well your dress has held up to teenage wear and tear. Plus, as Liv and I both is incredibly soft. A dream to wear. I love you forever for sending it to me us.

This is the one and only photo I will ever post, so take a good long stare. Wait, on second thought, just give it a brief glance. Let's call this one Cancer woman with good book on a glorious Summer eve.

I am so grateful for all of you. All of your good thoughts, prayers, warmth, humor (especially the darkest humor) and snarkiness when I need it the most.

Thank you, thank you, thank you....

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

"What would you think about Christmas in New Orleans this year?"

Oh, Bing. How did you know? There is nothing I would rather do.

Hopefully, chemo and radiation will be OVER.

Beignets  and coffee with chicory from Lizette in the morning. Wearing clothes for 60 degree weather instead of 0 degrees....

Sitting on the porch in rockers or swaying in the porch swing while we chat lazily ("make the veiller")with Uncle Henri and Aunt Eugenie. Nephew Rene coming up to see if Liv wants to go fishing with him on Lake Borgne to go catch a mashwarohn (catfish...) Looking out over Lake Ponchartrain. Uncle Henri telling Liv to "Watch for the caimon, boo!" (Alligator....)

A fais do do. Doing the Lake Charles Slide. The Whiskey River Jitterbug.

Walking up St. Charles Street. Picking out our future residence.

Finding a little lagniappe in every day.

Wearing a big hat and walking around The French Quarter. Paying WAY too much for a po' boy and some beer. Going into all the funky little shops. Buying some new tarot cards. Having my tarot cards read by a not-so-great reader, but that's okay. Finding that perfect little dress.

Listening to Bing lapse into Cajun with her relatives:

Alohrs pas
Don't you be making a bahbin at me, pischouette! (Stop pouting...)

Cho! Co! (Said every time something is exciting or newsy...)

You and your Cunja eyes (A Cunja is a spell.)
Wanna be my gaienne? (girlfriend)
Why do ya wanna live so far up the bayou? (Anyplace north)

Liv speaks French, but Uncle Henri and Aunt Eugenie tell her it is fancy pantsie French and by the time we leave, Liv is spouting Cajun right along with Bing while I am just beginning to catch on.

The soft easy syllables of New Orleans flying all around me. The slower pace everywhere until it finally rubs off on me and I learn to meander around instead of walk briskly.

The indescribable smell of the old sugar cane plantation that Uncle Henri and Aunt Eugenie live on. The feeling that that old main house has seen SO much, good and bad. Walking at night, by myself, I go all shivery with it but I am totally beguiled by it at the same time. Pulled in, HARD.

The way Bing's eyes go all soft and tender as soon as she steps off the plane on to her home state, her home city, her family.

I can't think of a more wonderful place to spend Christmas.

YES! I say this to Bing. Tell her to write Aunt Eugenie right away. Does she have room for 3 Christmas guests?

Bing laughs. OF COURSE SHE DOES. She'll have that fais do do planned within days! Are you sure we want to skip Chicago or not have it here like we usually do?

My arms are around her neck. NO. I want to GO. I want to plan to GO. I want to dream about going. I want to think of a time when I don't have a port embedded in my skin, when I'm not weekly hooked up to one IV or another.

I want to wear a bright yellow dress on Christmas and go for a long walk where I do NOT get tired and there is NO snow.

I want to eat so much gumbo and etouffee and I'll even try blood sausage, I will. I want to be full of beignets and coffee.

I want to close my eyes and hear those soft trills of New Orleans and the gritty balloos in The French Quarter.

I want. I want. I want.

We text Liv to see if she is up for Christmas in New Orleans. She is.

I can't wait. Something to dream about.

Wrap me up and send me to New Orleans. Soon.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Liv in twilight

She is my morning glory beast child. I have called her that since she was 3. She often comes into the kitchen singing in the morning. I only see her in the mornings on the weekends, though, since Bing and I both leave the house by 8 on the weekdays. Or...I'm in bed, wasted on chemotherapy.

But, one of my favorite videos captured on my phone shows her sliding into the kitchen in her panda footie pajamas bellowing out "You ain't nothing but a hound dog...." and smiling at the camera as she soon grabs it and then holds it up to show both of us, her free arm around my neck as she kisses me smackily on the cheek. My eyes still look sleepy in the video but she makes me laugh. And then she launches into "Hello muddah, hello fadduh. Here I am at Camp Granada...."

I have so many videos of her on my phone that it is a little pathetic. Bing is constantly telling me to live in the moment instead of recording it. But, you know...those videos bring me such joy on hard days.

Liv leaves tomorrow for ten days. She is going to a lake about 5 hours away with a friend and her family. She says she will miss us. I doubt that she will. She's young and vibrant and reminds me of my sunflowers. They just grow. If I ignore them, they grow. If I pamper them, they grow. But mostly they just make me feel happy. All that sweet yellow spilling into the yard. That's my Liv, sweet yellow spilling into the yard. Spilling all over us, our house, our hearts.

Except for a bad bout of colic from age 1 week to 4 months, Liv has always been a happy child. I hear about other people's kids. This one is a picky eater. This one gets stomach aches before each and every test. Liv was like a kid out of a perfect children's book. She ate well and easily. She was active from day one, threw herself into any and all sports started in our block and organized teams. She loved school once she adjusted to the fact that I could not go with her. In all the teacher reports, there were always the same comments: Liv gets along well with her peers. Liv is a cheerful child. Liv works hard at her subjects. Liv is kind to everyone. Liv is always the first to offer to help. Liv has an inquiring mind. Liv asks questions.

I have been spoiled rotten by all these pats on her back. Which is sort of like a pat on my back because I am the Mother and we get blamed for everything and honored with everything, too.

I have watched her metamorphosis through one phase after another. The colicky demon baby. The 9th month old who got up and walked one day as if she had been doing it in secret for months. She simply looked at me, decided that she wanted some of my toast, pulled herself to a standing position and with no fear, walked to me. I was so stunned that I swallowed funny and ended up choking while I was screaming out, "LIV, you're WALKING!" She looked at me as if I were dotty. Of course she was! She was a problem solver. She wanted toast. She figured out the path there and just took it. 

I watched her go from a shy at first and then garrulous toddler. To a kindergartener who came home with her first lost tooth in a box and tearfully asked me WHY I had not told her that there was this old fairy who flew around at night collecting children's teeth? And WHY did everyone think that was so wonderful? Sure, she supposedly left coinage but FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, she was taking children's TEETH? Didn't I find that disturbing? Since this was the same child who felt repulsed by a giant rodent hopping around the yard hiding a basket of candy for her and who was ferociously appalled by a fat man in a red suit coming down our chimney in the middle of the night and we were supposed to leave him cookies and milk? Seriously?....well, I just told her it was another one of those stories that parents told their children. She honestly did not get it, was not even remotely charmed by these stories. I was so (and still am, obviously) charmed by my funny little valentine, my insistently practical daughter.

Her grade school years are a misty blur of fun and sweetness. Reading Harry Potter together. The fight to get her to wear that sweet frilly white dress that her Aunt Patrice had made especially for her. The tenderness she displayed towards her Lakota grandmother when we visited. The way she choked up when she opened up a box in the mail to find that her kunsi, her grandmother, had handmade a beautiful jingle dress for her to wear with leggings and soft calf boots. She has proudly worn that to every pow wow with her Father. She walks in with the other women, her feet dancing close to the ground, symbolizing the fact that women's feet are tied to the earth.

And now, I look at my beautiful almost sixteen year old. She will come home from the lake just four days before her sixteenth birthday. We already have her cake ordered since neither Bing nor I can bake a strawberry cake as well as our favorite baker. We have her ruby ring wrapped. The ring that belonged to my Mother, the only piece of jewelry that I have from her. And I am handing it down to Liv. She is also being spoiled with a car from her godfathers from Chicago. And her Father is coming down the day before her birthday so that he can see her face.

Just a few moments ago, though, I passed the porch and saw her sitting in the twilight, a book on her lap, staring into the yard. Her face was miraculously cut in half by the setting sun. One half of her face was lit, the other in shadow. Her cafe au lait skin seemed almost burnished by the sun, her blonde braid falling carelessly across her shoulder. I don't think I gasped, but I must have sighed. She looked up and half smiled.

"What?" she said.

I shook my head.

"You. Just you. In the twilight," I said.

She smiled sheepishly. "Mama, don't be a sap," she kidded.

I sighed. "Ok, it's just sometimes you are so ugly that I can hardly stand it, " I told her.

She nodded. Smiled hugely, her Carly Simon jack o lantern grin.

"That's better, Mamacita" she said. "Don't want to spoil me!"

No, sweetie. I just want to look at you in twilight.

God, I should have taken a picture with my phone.....