Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I have a Daughter

I have a daughter named Annie.  She was long anticipated as I had her name picked out for almost 4 years.  Her brother, Korey would have been Ann-Marie Emma Cicinelli had he been born a girl.  I think now it all happened just right.  So I had two boys first, and then this complete surprise of a baby girl, and the doctor telling me it was such and I not quite believing I got that girl this time. 

She had a mind of her own from the moment she emerged.  Laid on my stomach while they cut the umbilical cord and delivered the placenta, she immediately urinated on my belly and upon feeling the warm fluid, she let out a lusty squall.  For the first few years it was a portend of things to come.

She screamed into the phone as I lay in recovery and told my mother, here was her first grand daughter.  She slept through the night at a month old, the first of my kids to do so.  She was a girl's weight when born, (at least for my babies), at 7 pounds, 7 ounces, a pound lighter than her oldest brother and almost 2 pounds lighter than her other brother.  But she remained petite and shortly acquired the nickname, "Putzy" from her Grandpa who adored her.  She walked at nine months, before she even had teeth.   She quit taking a nap at a bit over a year, and climbed out of her crib at every opportunity.  She was a potty training challenge and a disaster of pre school cuts and scratches from chasing after older brothers.

Annie ran into her first school room without a backward glance at poor old mom.  From the start she loved her friends and the opportunities school afforded for her to meet new friends.  She tagged along with us as we rushed her brothers to their first sports participations, the start of almost two decades worth of bleacher bottom and endless gyms, baseball diamonds and soccer fields.  At eight years old she was begging her dad to "throw" the ball with her, a ritual that continued for almost a decade.  She wasn't particularly "girly", preferring to wear shorts and jeans to dresses, and cutting any Barbie dolls hair to within an inch of its life.   But she hated the year I cut her baby fine hair so short, people mistook her for a boy.  She liked her best friends to have sisters, as knowing the disgusting things boys did much of the time was of no interest to her.  Brothers will do that to you. 

From about that first short haircut on, Annie and I suffered through a decade of attrition and contrition in the mother/daughter relationship.  I threatened and she set her jaw, stubbornly and rebelled.  She stomped her feet, I yelled and though I prevailed in the early years, I hadn't but won the battle, the war was long from over. She played sports of all kinds from the time she could walk.   She became Daddy's girl as he coached her in virtually every sport she undertook.  I was the cheerleader, the mom who drove her to everything, and paid the bills for endless camps and sports "stuff".   To be fair we did the same with the boys, and did it happily as it was what we wanted.  Yes, we lived through our kids and their sporting years.

Come high school and the driver's license, things changed.  The war escalated.  Annie was a good student, a good friend, a good driver, and a good athlete.  She gave me little to worry about aside from wanting to be gone constantly, and seeming to like everyone else's mom better than me.  We called her the little red taxi cab for the car she shared with her brother until he graduated and it became her sole possession. She drove here, she drove there, she drove virtually everywhere.  She was as at home behind the wheel as I was in my kitchen.  She played sports and was a mighty competitor, but didn't live and die by the stick and ball.  There were a few bumps in her road, but for the most part she was the all American high school girl and we fought constantly or so I thought.  Many is the night one of us was in tears over something.  The door to her bedroom was slammed so often, the pictures on the hallway wall carried a permanent tilt.  Her senior year in high school seemed a veritable mine field of traps I would step into.  I was wrong far more than I was right.  The kids she had grown up with, I was now only comfortable with when she wasn't around.  Many days it just seemed to be a time to get her to graduation and then have time to breathe away from each other.

College was a decision delayed and delayed and finally just kind of agreed to.  I'm not sure she ever really knew what she wanted in a college until she found what she didn't want.  A year at Alma College proved a turning point.  Gone was the want of continuing her sports at the college level.  Gone was the small town girl who wanted to know everyone on campus.  While she made lasting friends in her one year at Alma, she also felt stifled.  She was so unhappy there, it was a relief to tell her to transfer and to make this one the place she wanted to be.  Western Michigan was where she wanted to be.  It was a good move for her.  As it turned out a good one for me also.  She began to lead her own life and after a bad year that culminated in her decision to be gone from Alma, I began to come into my own life without kids.  Empty nesting took some adjustment, but I began to get the hang of it.  My friends became more important and I gave my family space while they decided their lives, or so I hoped.

Annie and I still had our challenges.  We found that we functioned best when we didn't spend more than 4 days in close proximity.  I know it sounds harsh, but we really were happier when we stayed in touch long distance for most of the time.  Annie was expanding her boundaries and exploring what she wanted from life.  Her goals were different than mine had been and I thought we were just different. I counted the differences more than the qualities we shared.  That would come later.   Peter came into Annie's life in her junior year of college and changed what it would be thereafter.  For the first time, she was excited for me to meet a guy she was dating.  To say Peter was not what I expected was an understatement, and it wasn't for the obvious reasons.  He seemed so different from the boys she had always hung out with previous.  But Peter had staying power and the more I came to know him, (and this took more than a few years as he was in school out of state for two long years), the more I realized how much he completed Annie and how much they complemented each other.  Peter had so many layers that Annie saw and fell in love with, and while it took me longer to see all of that, when I finally had the chance to totally love what Peter was all about, I fell in such regard for him and in turn saw my daughter in a whole new way.  Of course this was a way down the road.

When the summer of my dad's decline, I didn't know would come so soon, ended up coinciding with Korey and Jen's wedding, Annie seemed to merge all the disparities for me.  She helped with the wedding plans from our side of it and took the pressure off me.  The wedding was a joy, but so soon after I saw Dad age rapidly and faced the awful thoughts of dementia and how Mom would cope.  From the September ambulance trip to the hospital and the eventual hospitalization, Annie was the rock to our family.  She was wonderful with Dad and a bastion of strength to me.  She was tender and gentle with him and only wanted him to be comfortable and to know he was so loved.  It was such an amazement and ultimately such a comfort to me. 

Dad's passing that October marked the lowest point in my life.  But it was also the beginnings of a relationship with Annie, that while always there, finally bloomed and blossomed.  We still had our "winds of war" come swooping in but with every year we came more into "like" with one another.  We always loved each other, but discovering we were more alike than not, was a source of surprise to both of us.  Maybe we both grew into the relationship, and maybe ours was the normal course of Mothers and Daughters.  I do know that Annie has become my best friend, and that while I knew I always had a terrific daughter, I had no idea I could have such a very close and loving relationship with my girl.  She is my rock.

Annie has left behind her softballs, her snow skis, her bald Barbie dolls and all her trophies.  I have a daughter in who's room I still wander occasionally. I look at the music boxes which she never really cared about, but I thought would make a wonderful collection for a little girl.  I look at the pictures and softball posters still on her walls.  I look at the Harry Potter books she left behind, and glow in the dark stars she glued all over her walls.  The room hasn't changed much since she left it behind.  She has her own home now, one that I love to visit and feel so at home in.  I don't have her close by, and somehow I think if she were, we wouldn't function nearly as well as we do today.  I am fortunate that she is only a click of a computer away, a cell phone ring or a text.  In the future we will find more ways to stay in constant touch, and it makes me smile just thinking what lays ahead for us the rest of the way.

There is a saying, "A son is a son until he takes a wife, but a daughter is a daughter all of her life".   I have a daughter and she is a daughter for all of her life....and I am grateful every day now.

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