>i want to be like her when i grow up

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Silence.

All I could think was that there shouldn’t be silence. Why is there silence? All you could hear the rustle and whisper of cloth as the people in the room made inadvertent movements.

Suddenly the room was filled with a chaotic flurry of movement and noise, but it still sounded like silence to me.

She wasn’t crying. If she wasn’t crying, that meant she wasn’t breathing. Oh God, help me, she’s not breathing.

I lay there, helpless, so scared I wasn’t breathing anymore. He stood there, torn, between staying with me, or going with her. I still remember his face, the sheer panic. We were so young, I was barely 20 and he’d be 22 soon. Kids. Scared kids.

I screamed so loudly at him, to go, to go to her, that I think I scared the midwife and nurses. And then he was gone. they were gone.

I remember sitting there, afraid to move to breath. I couldn’t pray hard enough or fast enough. I don’t remember rational thought.

i didn’t get to see her. to hold her.

This was 14 years ago today. Zoe was born and changed my life forever.

Her dad and I weren’t married when she was born. We were young and stupid, barely aware of who we were individually, much less as a couple. We’d only been dating a few months when I got pregnant. We moved in together, into a crummy little basement apartment in midtown Atlanta. It was before the Olympics and ensuing glut of reconstruction came to town. Meaning, broke college students could actually afford to live in midtown then. It was a one bedroom, with a kitchen barely big enough for the cockroaches. But it was ours.

We were both in the Greek system at school, and so on the night we finally went into labor, the waiting room was packed full to brimming with cigar smoking, whisky swilling frat boys, and giggly sorority girls. Actually, there were more frat guys there than sorority girls. The girls, by and large, stood in stoic judgment over me for getting pregnant, with more than one advising me to abort the baby. The frat boys.. well, they were just happy for us. Life was such a celebration to them, and to this day, every one of those men holds a special place in my heart. No child could be blessed with better uncles.

it was hours before they let me see her. they’re afraid she’s not gonna make it. my first glimpse of my first born was of a scrawny little baby, laying in an incubator, tubes and wires attached to her feet, her arms, down her throat and her nose. if he hadn’t been there holding me up, i would have collapsed. this is my child. God help me.

i was afraid to touch her. she looked so… fragile. it was surreal. she didn’t move. i still hadn’t heard her cry.

i finally screwed up the courage to sit down next to her and i touched her hand, and honey, momma’s here. her heart rate jumped. she moved. she’s alive. he and i stayed as long as they’d let us, eventually shooing us out so that she could rest.

overnight, she pulled out her own oxygen line, and she never looked back. 8 days and one heart monitor later, they let her go home.

she’s 14 now, and the oldest of 5 kids. after leaving the hospital that day, she’s never been back. (knock on wood), she’s never needed stitches or surgeries, and just got her first ear infection this past summer. she’s got a pain tolerance that would make most grown men wither.

z_wrestling.JPG(the long haired one on top is her… look at her biceps!!!)

the child is fearless. no, really. not in a reckless kinda way, but fearless as in nothing, and i mean NOTHING ever holds her back. she, quite literally, lives life at full speed and never apologizes for who she is.

she never meets a stranger and has friends far and wide. she excels at making you comfortable the minute you meet her. her laugh is infectious. it’s loud, and sometimes a little obnoxious (especially at midnight when you’re ‘bout ready to crash and she’s just gearing up), but it’s deep and full and hearty. and real.

she’ll tell you straight off that’s she’s a member of the nerd herd (her words, not mine). she’d rather be smart than popular, but she’s both. things just come to her. hell, 4 years ago while i was working on statistics homework, she came by and said, ‘oh, the answer is blah de blah.’ and damned if she wasn’t right. she loves her friends deeply and her family intensely.

she’s strong in ways i could never imagine at 14. carries herself with an honest way, but sees the world more for what it is than i ever could, up until a few years ago. she has grace and (thinks) she has style. she’s into skinny jeans and converse and gawd help me, she has an affinity for a purple lace glove, only one hand. and she’s starting to garner second glances.

i want her to grow up wise, not naive, but not too fast. i’m not naive enough myself to think that in this day and age she’s going to make it through high school without experiencing things, but i don’t want it to happen too soon, or too fast. she wants to go to Stanford, and i don’t want to send her away, into the big wide world too innocent. there are too many wolves out there that will eat her up. ‘and then the lion fell in love with the lamb’ is a nice story, but we all know the lion usually eats the lamb.

she’s an athlete, a state and national champion in wrestling and she practices ju jitsu and muay thai. she plays soccer, as well. she has Olympic aspirations in wrestling (which scares the hell out of me, but makes me incredibly proud at the same time). her dad works out with her in the garage, and i swear when she and i are playing around and she locks up with me, it hurts. i’ve seen stars more than once and she’s still laughing. off the mat, she’s as clumsy as they come, but on the mat, when she’s practicing or competing, she moves with the grace of a prima ballerina. (and i swear, if she read that comparison, i’d be dead).

she plays the violin, and the piano, and is learning the guitar. she makes jewelry. real, honest-to-gawd chandellier earrings that i wear everyday. she reads voraciously and can even cook, almost better than me (which granted, isn’t saying a whole lot).

zoe_violin.jpg (she doctored this image)

she’s my friend. and no, i’m not the kind of parent that wants to be friends with her kids. i do believe in that particular separation of church and state. but in the last year or so, i find that i like her as a person… a lot. we sit up late, when everyone else is in bed, watching sappy chick flicks, laughing and crying together. i taught her to crochet, and she’s teaching me to knit. she helps with the math homework that i can’t do. she enjoys a medium rare thick cut steak, but weeps at the sight of needless and disrespectful taxidermy. she’s an anachronism and a juxtaposition rolled into a cream puff.

i remember when her dad and i were separated, the weekend that i decided the kids and i had to move what she did for me. he had moved out, albeit temporarily, and was threatening to come home. i was at an orchestra competition with her, and my mom was at home with the rest of the kids, when i got the call from dad. waiting for a break in rehearsal, i told her what was going on and that i was going home so i could send her grandmother back up to be with her. i needed to figure out what was going on. she started to leave with me, saying she needed to be with me. i made her go back inside to finish the day. when she got home that evening with my mother, and i had already found the house and signed the papers. she took one look at the paper work and said, ‘where are the boxes?’, and set about packing. i swear to you, i packed my bedroom. she did most of the rest of it. wouldn’t let me touch a damn thing. maybe the fact that i could barely contain my tears had something to do with it, but nonetheless, it’s indicative of her strength.

she has the spirit of a warrior, this one. i don’t know why she chose to be be born to me and her father, when arguably, we have more to learn from her than we could ever teach her.

she’s my light, my heart. my angel in black converse. my ferocious kitten.

zoe_with_a_big_smile.jpg

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