There is a song from the movie, The Sound of Music called "Something Good." It is a love song about how the main character (aptly named Maria) feels that even though she wasn't very deserving, she must have done something good somewhere along the way to deserve the love of her husband.
I think of Liv when I hear this song.
I was never much of a saint. I wasn't a bad person, but I wasn't particularly good either before I had my Liv. But, there are times when I look at my little Liv and I simply can't believe my good fortune to have her. How did someone as cynical and smart mouthed as me end up with this child who not only has changed my world in the past eight years, but changed it so remarkably much that I barely recognize the woman that I was before she existed? Who was that self involved twit? Was that really ME?
I remember her infancy. It was...hard. Liv had colic. Some nights she literally cried all night long. The days were better, but I was so worn out from the previous nights that I was barely coherent. I loved her, yes. That was never in question. But, I really didn't like her all that much. I was sleep deprived and her crying set my nerves on jangled edge. I remember looking down at her screaming, blotchy red face once and saying, "You do realize that I can barely stand you right now, don't you, you little fucker?"
I was educated medically. I knew without being told that she had colic, yet I took her to her pediatrician anyway. Was he sure this was colic? Could it be that she just hated me? I mean, I knew that I wasn't Mary Poppins. I was more like Lucy Ricardo at that point, wacked out and wanting to cry with my mouth wide open, huge tears. I sorely needed Ricky to come in and swoop down and say, "What's all this hullabaloo? You have some "splainin to do, Lucy! Never mind. I'll take little Ricky to the park, you go take a nice long nap and maybe a shower..."
Instead I called Bing, who was living in New Orleans at the time. She came. She helped. She quietly hoped that maybe, just maybe, I was ready to invite her into my life to be my partner.
I tried. I really did. I failed.
Liv gave up the colic ghost when she was four months old and for that, I was so grateful that I felt like weeping. I think I did weep. A lot. From sheer release. From the sudden peace in my noisy, screaming brain.
After that, Liv became the little baby that could. She was a sweetly intelligent little morsel. She drank down her soy milk bottles with no complaining and none of that projectile vomiting that she'd been famous for. She smiled her beguiling toothless grin at me, her mouth full of peas or apricots or peaches.
She became the best thing that ever happened to me.
I was besotted, had to mentally restrain myself from going up to complete strangers to show them my beautiful blonde baby with the dark brown eyes. Wasn't she just incredible? Had they ever seen such a sweet, good baby?
Bing went back to New Orleans, sick with misery at my inability to be in a relationship.
Liv and I became the winsome twosome. I quit my job, downsized my life, gave up the expensive swanky condo and moved into an ancient fixer-upper in an older part of the city with huge maple trees and lots of houses with roomy front porches and boiler heat. I began freelancing, making my own hours, leaving Liv with caretakers only occasionally.
I had enough money saved to live for about seven years without having to work full time, if nothing went terribly wrong.
Liv began to walk. She punched out teeth. She learned to use the potty. She talked a mile a minute. She and I were so close that I didn't know where she ended and I began. We were like one person.
I tried to date now and then but found myself sitting in restaurants, looking at various women and men and thinking, "You are just not interesting enough to warrant being away from my child. Let's snarf down this steak and you can take me home. No dessert for me, nope. Let's just split that check and be on our ways...
It was an idyllic time in many ways. Liv and I spent our days seeking out cardinals in a nearby park, looking for fairies and borrowers in tree knots. We learned the names of every tree on our block. We collected leaves in the Autumn and set them in bowls around the house, a spattering of red and gold in our shabby chic surroundings.
I let her sleep with me almost every night. Okay. Stop judging me. She's eight now and perfectly well adjusted. The sleeping together didn't mess her up too much. She sleeps in her own bed now, has been doing so for several years. But, it is me who misses the soft, downy heap of her, her leg slung over mine, possessively.
I went to tons of children's movies until I realized that Liv didn't like them all that much either. She liked The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. Action movies with a fairytale bent.
At my sister's urgings, I enrolled Liv in pre-school when she was three. The head of the school assured me that MANY children cry and carry on and that I should just leave without a fuss. She called me two hours later to tell me that Liv had broken the school record for wailing and gnashing of teeth and that I should come and get her. I raced to the school and found my baby waiting there, her face tear streaked, chin wobbling, arms held out to me. Her teacher, a gentle woman with a perfectly bobbed haircut, advised me to wait another year.
We waited. Happily. I didn't mind having her home. My life was her. Liv found an imaginary friend, a lion named Chancey. Chancey stayed with us for a long, long time. We baked birthday cakes every few months for him. He ate dinner with us and took a stand with Liv by refusing to eat his broccoli. He and Liv raced around the house, playing for hours.
I didn't listen when friends and family told me that perhaps Chancey was a substitute for friends. I raised my eyebrow and spouted the recent psychological findings: that imaginary friends came to children of many diverse personalities. There was no reason to label Liv as lonely or strange. Just who did they think they were talking to? I mean, I of all people, would know if my daughter was psychologically stressed. And, as if to prove my point, Liv is a very well adjusted almost-fourth grader now with many, many friends. Real ones.
Liv went back to pre-school at the age of four with Chancey right beside her. Her teacher assured us that she had no qualms about Chancey as long as he obeyed school rules and played nicely. Liv solemnly told her that Chancey was very well behaved and would mind his manners.
Liv loved her school, a very broad minded Montessori school that served children from pre-school to sixth grade. The tuition made me blanch a bit, but I could see that this school was exactly what my Liv needed.
Chancey went to school with Liv until she began first grade and then he began going on forays of his own out into the world. By the time she hit second grade, he had moved on to help another child who needed a good friend.
By the time Liv began second grade, I acknowledged that well....I was lonely. I had taken myself out of the dating market for years, had cleverly sidestepped each and every attempt by friends and family to set me up. But, now...okay...I was lonely. I missed sex, damn it.
Bing had moved back to my city by then and we saw a lot of each other socially. She had always been my best friend. Eventually, she became as Alanis Morissette wrote, my best friend with benefits.
Liv had loved Bing from day one, so it was no big deal for Bing to be back in our house. She had lived on and off with us for years. But, eventually, she began sharing my bed and I sat down and explained to Liv that the winsome twosome would now be the fearsome threesome. She was fine with that, happy to have Bing nearby all of the time. They remain very close. If she can't be with me, Liv wants to be with Bing.
I have days where I just sit back and stare at my family and I cannot believe my good fortune. How in the world did I manage to get this wonderful little family? I had tried my best to be a good mother to Liv, but I knew that I had failed in many areas. I have always been an aloof person and while Liv is the only one besides Bing who has managed to break through each and every wall I had in place, I am not stupid enough to believe that I didn't make plenty of mistakes along the way. I was probably too protective of her when she was a toddler. I worked hard to not push my likes on Liv, I came from a mother who was not a reader and used to constantly order me to "put that book down now and get outside and breathe some fresh air."
I would go outside, but sit under a tree with a book.
I didn't want Liv to look back on her childhood and think that I had pushed things on her, so I let her take the lead. This has led her to all sorts of athletic pursuits (soccer, swim team, soft ball, basketball and karate) that I avoided like the plague when I was her age.
Liv is Liv. She is more like me than not, but she is her father too and most importantly, herself. She is cool and aloof with people until she get to know them (me), she loves to read, but she doesn't like the kinds of books that I did as a child. She likes adventure. She loves math and music (her father) and can play piano, violin, harmonica and a little guitar. I do think that Bing has rubbed off on her a little in that department. The two of them can sit and listen to reggae music for hours. Reggae makes me sort of feel like rubber bands are snapping all over the place. She is very athletic, loves all kinds of sports.
She gets good grades and hates to be one upped by classmates. Unfortunately, that is me all over.
She loves to cook and bake. I have no idea where that odd trait comes from since I have never believed that the oven is my friend...:)
Mostly, though, Liv is my heart. She is my day. She is my centerpiece, my raison d'etre. My sky, my moon, my sun. I have never loved anyone else in my life with such deepness, such intensity, such sheer joy.
Perhaps I had a wicked childhood
Perhaps I had a miserable youth
But somewhere in my wicked, miserable past
There must have been a moment of truth
For here you are, standing there, loving me
Whether or not you should
So somewhere in my youth or childhood
I must have done something good
Nothing comes from nothing
Nothing ever could
So, somewhere in my youth or childhood
I must have done something good...
And I always think of you when I hear this song, my dearest, smartest, sweetest love bean. Today was your first day of bible school and you said that you learned how important it is to share. So, I am sharing this with you to read when you are all grown up and maybe not think that I hung the moon anymore.
You are so loved. So, so loved, Liv.