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...over-educated and under-experienced, or so they say...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Hope: My Best Little Friend

Hope...  She was born on July 1, 1999.   Best thing that ever happened to me.  No matter how dark life gets, that kid is something special.  She's growing up.  These things come to mind as I watch her:

At 9 months old she knew that oatmeal was "hot," she knew that the weather was "hot," she knew how to say "daddy," and at some point I realized when she said "Mimi" she was calling my name because she couldn't say "Mommy."  And for the longest time I was "Mimi," long after we all knew she was capable of saying "Mommy," and for me... that was one of the most precious moments of my life.  Mimi...  somehow that made me different from every mother on Earth, whether it really did or not, and I loved it.

 At 15 months old I had left her daddy because of all the turmoil he created in our world and I moved in with my parents and I was completely destroyed because it wasn't what I wanted, not for her or for me or even for him.  And I was up one morning and Hope was sitting in the high chair eating her breakfast.  And I was talking to my Mom and saying things that no child should really hear, but I was saying it all thinking she was too young to understand and suddenly she turned to me and said, "Don't worry, Mimi, it's going to be okay."  At that point my mom and I just shut up and looked at each other and decided from that point on we needed to hold our words because she was aware.  At the same time, I never forgot that my little tiny precious girl somehow recognized that I was sad and scared and she pulled some strength of her own from somewhere in that little high chair and reminded me that we would be fine, no matter what.

She was almost two and she had just gotten out of the bath.  I was drying her off and she passed gas and stood there in shock for a moment just before saying, "Mimi?  Was that my body?"  And I laughed and affirmed that it was in fact her body that made that noise.

At three years old she decided to call upon the powers of God to make me do what she wanted because I was in graduate school and I was studying and couldn't play.  She went into her room and shut the door and what I heard through the closed door was, "By the Power Of God... Mimi will stop reading and play with me!"  She then came outside of her room and said, "So, can we play Power Rangers now?"  I had a paper due and didn't have time to play so I said, "I"m sorry.  I can't play.  I told you that already, and I know you think you can wield the power of God, but God also wants me to get my Master's degree so you're just going to have to wait."  She was disappointed that day, but what God probably did do for her was remind me that my child will only be three once and I will someday miss that so from that point on I made it a point to only study when she was down for the night.  (Guess He heard her prayer on that one.)

Somewhere around four years old she came out and asked, "Mimi, what does it mean to speak your mind?"  I wasn't sure how to answer her at the time because... how the hell do you explain that to a four year old and have it make any sense?  So I said to her, "Well, to speak one's mind means to say the things that are most important to you and not be afraid of what the person who's listening might think or feel about it."  At the time when I said that she simply said okay and walked away.  Three days later, I was sitting out on the patio with some friends and she came out and crawled into my lap and said, "Mimi, I think I know what it means to speak my mind."  When I asked her what it meant she said, "It means that there are a lot of thoughts in my head but some of them go higher up in my head than the others and they let me know that I need to say them so... when I say them I am speaking my mind."  I remember that every person on the patio with me that night was completely silent after she said that and my only response was, "Yes, honey.  That's exactly what it means to speak your mind."

At six years old I'd taken her and a friend of hers to the Renaissance Fair.  I bought each of them a wooden sword.  After an entire day of watching jugglers and jousters and whatever else we saw, we walked out to the parking lot saying that we should come again next year and dress up.  Hope said she wanted to dress up like a knight in armor so she could have her sword, and she swung it about in the air.  Her little friend said she wanted to be a princess.  Hope said, "You can't have a sword if you're a princess."  Her little friend said, "I can too!"  Hope said, "You'll be wearing a dress!  You can't have a sword if you wear a dress!"  At that point I stepped in and said, "Just because you're in a dress doesn't mean you can't wield a sword."  Both of the girls looked up at me and then walked the rest of the way to the car in silence.  When I woke up the next morning, Hope had her sword and was bouncing around the living room saying, "Just because I'm in my jammies doesn't mean I can't wield a sword!"  (I always planned to write a children's book about that, but I haven't gotten to it yet)

At seven years old I got a call from her teacher.  Hope had kicked one of her little boy friends in the groin at school on the play ground that day.  When the teacher told me about it, I knew Hope had been going through some anger issues with the "family atmosphere."  Her dad had just gotten married and there was a baby on the way and there was a world of change she had not been prepared for so... I didn't condone anything she did, but I knew where it was coming from.  And when I went to talk to her about it she said, "I couldn't help it.  I was on the swings and he kept calling me stupid.  And I warned him!  I told him if he called me stupid one more time I was going to show him what stupid was and Mama!  He called me stupid one more time and I jumped off the swings and I pinned him against the wall and I kneed him in the groin!"  And then she buried her head in my lap and she sobbed because she knew she'd done wrong and she knew that kid was one of her best friends (and he is to this day).  And I hugged her and I told her that we don't do that to people just because we're angry and then... I had this moment where I thought about how much I want my kid to be able to take care of herself because damn it... there were plenty of times in my life between 17 and 21 where I may have needed that kind of fire and so... I finally said to her, "Well... if it makes you feel any better, I am glad that you know how to do that."  She stopped and looked up at me and then buried her head back into my lap and said, "It doesn't make me feel any better!"

She was 8 years old when I went about three months without a job.  Things were scary for me then, but I did my best not to let on exactly how scary they were, but I was a stress case.  I finally picked up a job that I was completely over qualified for in terms of education and it didn't pay me as much as I needed, but it was something.  We were driving in the car and the Rolling Stones came on the radio singing, "You Can't Always Get What You Want," and I started harmonizing along with the song when Hope looks at me and says, "This song is about us, Mama.  We don't always get what we want, but we always get what we need."

At 9 I finally got a solid position with the company I had been working for as a contract employee, which meant I finally got health insurance and I finally got the income that I needed to pay my bills without robbing from Peter to pay Paul and I finally had some hope of having enough to send my kid to college.  I was so happy I couldn't control my tears.  I picked Hope up from school that day and told her the news with joyful tears in my eyes and she said, "See Mama!  God is good to you.  You have worked hard and you have been good to the people around you and you never forgot to trust that He would take care of you and He finally did.  He gave you what you needed Mama because you deserve it."  I sobbed...

Now she's 12 and I'm looking at her and seeing this beautiful young creature that is so much more than those sweet little rough and tumble child years.  She was always a tomboy, always some kind of firefly, and now I'm putting her in pretty clothes fit for a young lady and she's standing off in the distance on a stage here and there and singing at Christmas programs and playing sports at a level just shy of high school and she's coming to me and having serious conversations of college and where she should go and I'm listening and I'm talking and somewhere inside of me I'm thinking: where did the time go?

We have seen a lot together, Hope and I, way more than I've written here.  There isn't enough writing space to cover all of that.  But Sunday night, after I had cleaned and reorganized my space for two days in a row because I was trying to bring some sense of order to my own emotional chaos, because I was trying to be proactive in the reinventing of myself after what I thought was going to happen didn't come to pass, Hope came out to sit with me on the patio.  I had my glass of wine, I had the silence of night, and I had my thoughts, and Hope came out and sat beside me.  She pulled her iPod from her pocket and she started to play songs that she knew we both loved and we sat there together and we sang them -- sometimes she would sing melody and I would sing harmony and sometimes I sang melody while she took up the harmony. It was a beautiful and unexpected moment for me, much like all of the moments above, and at some point I had no more words for the emotions that were rising up inside me as she sat next to me.  She has been my best little friend for so long, but it's pretty clear the little friend part is starting to grow and I couldn't help it anymore, I finally said, "I'm going to miss you when you grow up."  And she looked at me and said, "I'm going to miss you too."

My precious...  My best little friend... Hope is one of the biggest reasons I have been anything better than an idiot.

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