Thursday, May 19, 2011

My first. There's only one.

That's the face of butterbeer
Liv’s prom pictures made me realize we are reaching milestones almost daily around here. The lasts of a lot of things…band concerts, forensics banquets, booster shots.  As I consider all these lasts, I can’t help going back to that skinny yet improbably hard-to-carry toddler who never held on to us so much as used us as perches from which to view and delight in the world around her.  Who she’s become and will yet become is largely who we always thought she was.  Kids are puzzles in the box, the pieces are all a jumble.  The keen observer can start to see the whole for those little pieces pretty quickly.  And over time in our case, the edge pieces have all been found and framed a wonderful 18 year old that has emerged her senior year. I think back to some of my favorite Olivia moments and the puzzle pieces that have fallen into place. 

my traveling buddy
As a toddler, with the precision and silence of the Stealth Bomber, she crawled from the kitchen while my back was turned, scaling a chair to reach the top of the dining room table where she teeteringly must have turned around to sit cross legged so she could carefully open a box of jelly beans that I assumed had been stashed above her view.  The puzzle pieces here still remain.  She has an amazing memory and she still loves candy. 

As a kid of 5 or 6 she once crept downstairs on a weekend morning and opened the back door triggering the whoop whoop of the burglar alarm.  She scaled the baby gate off the back porch, walked down the side alley of our city block in nightgown and barefeet to the front of the house to get the newspaper.  The house alarm blared and Chip and I went to the open back door with the cricket bat poised to brain someone, only to catch the tail end of that spritely little return walk back down the alley, Liv smiling to herself with newspaper in hand.  And to this day, she cannot really start her morning without reading the newspaper.

On our trip to Harry Potter world, she was decidedly disappointed in her geriatric mom’s inability to ride the rides fanatically and repeatedly with her--oh, yeah, that's why we made you a sister!  It was clear to me on our trip that NASA doesn’t know about this diamond in the rough living in Wisconsin, who could take space and time exploration to a whole new level with her love of physical sensation.  Her preschool teacher said it first.  She has always and still does love sensation of most kinds; fast, spinning, sweet, salty, sour, upside down. 

And she's a talker.  She’s been babbling since she was about two weeks old, on trains and planes, in the tub, pointing and squawking from her stroller, following us around the house to chat sports or reflections of her day.  Despite having to tell her to zip it occasionally, whether it’s a trip to Harry Potter world or a trip to the grocery store, she’s a low maintenance, sweet, positive, flexible companion at home or on the road, especially if there's a snack in it for her.  I can’t really imagine what it will be like around here without her daily presence.  But I’m feeling great so far, steeped in my denial.

she went on, I did not.  I could not.

Classic tourists...full of chicken fingers, soda and nachos.
I see many friends on Facebook are also facing their own firstborns leaving home this summer.  Like the Decorah eaglets, they all seem big enough, they all technically look ready to fly, but it’s such a long drop down from the nest.  Scary stuff.  Their lives are starting “for reals” and in a way we as parents are appropriately being nudged unwillingly to bystander status.  What can we do?  I can't make her do anything.  I think the police could arrest me for that now.  And I resent those grownups who think they get to call the shots because they pay the bills--nuh uh, it's her time now.  My parents were so good about letting me live my life that I want to honor them by doing the same for Liv, as much as it pains me to let her make the decisions now.  If it keeps her out of living in my basement at age 26, well, the pain will have been worth it.   

I am not weepy but I am sad and afraid to let go…let go of the baby, the toddler, the little kid we took to Disney, even that teenager I took to Harry Potter world just a month ago.  And at the same time I can’t wait for her to have her chance at living her life without having me pawing at her daily like a lioness keeping her cub close.  And I look forward to watching the rest of this puzzle come together.  The edges were ours to put together but the middle is for her to fill in with the picture she imagines that is her life and her passions and her future.  I'm going to miss you fiercely, kid, but I love you enough to not make it all about me this one time.