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Monthly Archives: March 2013

Middle Child

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IMG_0075I wrote earlier this month about my oldest daughter’s birthday, “Firstborn,” posted March 7, 2013. Now it’s my second baby’s 23rd birthday, and she’s not too happy about it. Of course, she doesn’t mind turning 23, it’s just that she has to spend eight hours of it at work rather than celebrating with her friends in Austin at Hula Hut or Cain & Abel’s, as she has the last 4 years. And, it’s happening on Good Friday, which is not exactly a day for balloons and cake (or margaritas, for that matter.) However, I remember that her birthday fell on Good Friday when she turned 2 or 3 and we were at my parents’ house for Easter. My mom proclaimed that birthdays were a time for everyone in the family to be dispensed from Lenten requirements. As usual, we took her word for it,  and helped our little girl blow out the candles. So, tonight when she arrives home, and we are a family of 5 again, we will celebrate her birthday with a good meal, (meatless, of course),  a birthday cake, and, perhaps, a sip or two of wine in Mom’s memory.

My middle child has always been her own person. From the minute I learned I was pregnant with her, I felt ill. Don’t get me wrong; I was happy about the pregnancy, I just couldn’t get near food or anything with an aroma. My diet consisted of saltines and Coca-Cola for about 3 months. This was new for me; my first pregnancy was so uneventful, I kept wondering what all those women had been complaining about. Then, after 9 months, the labor pains began. I’d never really experienced that, either. Sure, I had contractions but these were CONTRACTIONS. After a few hours at home, my husband took me to the hospital. The nurse examined me and said cheerily, “Nope. It’s not time. You need to go home and rest.” I turned into Mom-zilla and yelled, “You don’t know me; I’m not a whiner. I can handle pain. This is real. I’m having this baby NOW!” She ignored me while my husband looked on in fear. He gently convinced me to get back in the car and we returned home. He reassured me that all was well and that after a good night’s sleep, I’d feel better in the morning. As soon we settled into bed, he began snoring. A minute or two later, I shook him awake and said, “My water broke.” He, physician and surgeon, asked incredulously, “Are you sure?” Back we went to the hospital and our tiny six-pound baby girl was born a few hours later. As she settled into her new home and a room she shared with her two-year old sister, she cried off and on every night for 14 months. (But, who’s counting?) A “routine” was not in her vocabulary. Then came time for potty-training. She would have none of it; it was so much easier to go when she wanted wherever she happened to be. Thank God for her pre-school teacher. On her third birthday, her teacher told her what a big girl she was and then matter-of-factly stated, “It’s a rule here at school. Everyone who is three must use the potty.” That was it; I never bought another package of Pull-Ups for her.

Growing up, she loved visiting my parents for a week or two in the summer. This was her chance for some alone time with her grandparents and cousins without her big sis bossing her around. She especially loved accompanying Mom on her weekly trips to the beauty shop. One morning after Mom had been colored, set, and dried, my little one looked up  at her and announced in a loud voice, “You look just like a chicken!” Mom never let her live that down. Another time, when she was about 3, her friend, Caitlin, was over and the girls were playing outside. She called her “Other One Caitlin,” and she not only disliked sharing the same name, she really didn’t like sharing her toys with her. I sent her inside for “time out,” and after a bit, I looked up to see her grinning and waving at us through the window. I started towards the house and reached for the doorknob with a sick feeling. Yes, my little angel had locked us out of the house. I can’t remember how we got back inside, but I do know that she was in time out for much longer than originally planned.

Caitlin has always done whatever she’s set her mind to do. There was a period in her life when she cared more about horses than people. She collected miniature horses and learned to groom and ride real ones. The stable was quite a drive from our house, but it was worth it to see her face light up as the horses came in view. Eventually, she took up volleyball, and then announced in high school that she was going to learn to play tennis. She took lessons, had beautiful form, and made the high school tennis team.  Her tennis coach still laughs about how she won matches without moving; she’d rather lose a point than run across the court for the ball. Clearly, she did not inherit my competitive gene.  In high school, she decided to attend the University of Texas, when most of the students attending were accepted under the “top 10% rule.” She worked hard and it was the only school to which she applied. During her freshman year at UT, she told us that she wanted to study abroad in France the next summer. This, from a girl who rarely wanted to go anywhere without two or three friends to accompany her. We agreed and she took off for Lyon, France where she lived with a French family and became fluent in the language.

Recently, I realized that my little girl had  grown up as I helped her move into an apartment in Dallas. This was different from dropping her off at college; this was life in the real world. She had a job and wouldn’t be home for breaks in the fall and summer. And, although she’d lived in an apartment while attending the university, this was the first time she was living alone. I began to regret that she’d ever gotten hired! But, so far, so good, and she’s happy. That’s all a mom needs to know.

Happy 23rd Birthday, Caitlin Steele!

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Priest, Teacher, Waterskiing Instructor

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imagesLately, I have been thinking about my 8th grade religion teacher, Father Peter Higgins, who died last November. A couple of years ago, during Holy Week, I learned from a friend that Father was in a rehabilitation hospital in San Antonio recovering from a stroke. I hadn’t seen him since the late ’70’s, although I kept up with news of him through his Christmas cards to my parents. I was told that he was making progress but needed visitors to help keep his spirits up, so, I went to visit him with an Easter lily in hand. Nervously, I knocked on his door, and entered the room. I tiptoed around the corner, and there he was, lying flat on his back in bed. Seeing me, he smiled broadly, and with his familiar Irish accent, greeted me by name.  Father reached out for my hand, tears welling up in his still bright eyes. We reminisced a little and I filled him in on family members and other Cuero friends. I was amazed at the strength of his grip, the heartiness of his voice, and his recollection of distant events. After a short visit, I said goodbye and promised to be back to see him soon.

Driving home, memories came flooding back as I recalled the days when Father Higgins served as our parish priest at St. Michael’s in Cuero. Not only was he my 8th grade religion teacher, he taught me how to waterski.  One day during class, he announced that he would take a group of youth from the parish to a nearby river to enjoy an afternoon of boating and waterskiing on Sunday. Any student who wished to go could meet him at the rectory at 12:30. Although I didn’t know how to ski, it sounded like fun and I thought I’d just ride along in the boat and work on my tan. A group of us brought soft drinks and paper plates filled with homemade cookies provided by our mothers. Father’s light blue van was pulled up on the side of the church with his motorboat on the trailer behind. “Come on kids; let’s go,” Father yelled. You might imagine that we students would have been a little nervous and awed by the fact that our priest and teacher wanted to take us out for an afternoon on the water. We weren’t; he was witty and fun-loving and had joined us on wiener roasts and hayrides out in the country for birthdays and other celebrations.

Upon arrival at the river, Father pulled out bright orange life jackets. We each put them on, and piled onto the boat. Then, he asked who would like to go first. My friend Greg volunteered and quickly jumped into the murky water. Father handed the skis to him and tossed him the rope. Father shouted, “Ready?”  “Hit it!” Greg yelled. And off we went. Facing the back of the boat, I watched with trepidation as Greg briefly sunk down and water sprayed all around him blocking my view.  Within seconds he popped up and stood on his skis.  I couldn’t believe my eyes. He made it look so easy! Soon he was traversing from side to side going over the wake with ease, giving us the thumbs up signal. Father was grinning from ear to ear, looking back occasionally to watch.  Eventually, Greg fell gently backwards and Father circled around to pick him up. “Want another go?” he asked. Greg shook his head and climbed back into the boat. “Who’s next?” Everyone, except me, volunteered at once, while I avoided Father’s gaze. One by one, all of my classmates took their turns in the water while I watched.  Finally, late in the afternoon, just when I thought I had escaped notice, Father turned to me and said, “Ok, Constance. It is NOW your turn.”  I protested vehemently and told him I didn’t need to ski; it was getting late and I was fine with just going back to the van.  He wouldn’t hear of it and insisted I have my turn. Finally, I had to admit that I didn’t know how to waterski. This did not dissuade Father Higgins for one minute, and before I knew it, the boat was idling and I was in the water. Father leaned down and handed the heavy wooden skis to me. Shakily, I tried to hold the rope handle in the crook of my elbow, while struggling to pull on each ski and inhaling the gasoline fumes of the boat’s motor. Father instructed me about keeping the ski tips up, knees bent and arms straight.Every muscle was shaking and I was already exhausted from the effort of putting on the skis. “Ready?” Father asked. “I guess,” I said unenthusiastically.  “WAIT! Arms bent or straight?” I frantically yelled.  Every muscle tensed as I felt the boat move forward and suddenly, the rope handle flew out of my hand. “Sorry,” I called when Father circled toward me. “Ok; let’s try again,” he smiled. Really? I was already reaching to take off the skis. But, the rope was soon back in my hands and my knees were bent. He sped up again and my face planted in the water. I came up coughing and choking after inhaling what seemed like gallons of nasty river water.  Back again came the boat. “Well, at least I tried,” I said, weakly. “Nope, you’ve almost got it. Let’s go again.” Well, this went on for too many tries to count, and all the while I was fighting back tears. Finally, Father said, “One more try, Constance. Come on, you’ve almost got it.”  I was too tired to protest, so I literally lay back on the water and surrendered. I felt the tug of the rope as the slack was taken out and, as if by a miracle, I felt my body rise up and stand on top of the skis! Great clapping, whooping and hollering came from the boat, the loudest cheers coming from Father Peter. I held on for a few minutes in disbelief and as soon as I thought about what was happening, I lost my balance and fell. The boat turned around without delay and Father reached a big hand down to help my shaky self into the boat. He grinned and said, “Now you’ll never forget it. Next time you’ll get right up.” He was right.

After I returned home from the hospital, I excitedly told my family of my visit with Father Higgins and of my memories of him. My girls were amazed as they couldn’t imagine spending the day on a boat driven by a priest! I suddenly realized that times have definitely changed; today children couldn’t get on a boat with a priest unless hundreds of permission slips and releases from liability were signed. And, I’m sure as many parents as kids would have to come as chaperones. What a gift we 8th graders received from  a priest in a simpler time, who wanted nothing more than to share his love of being on the water with his students. I can only hope that Father Peter is enjoying captaining a boat across some beautiful clear waters in heaven with children gleefully skiing along behind!

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Lagniappe: a little something extra

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IMG_1474Last week was Spring Break, which in our family lingo translates to “Road Trip!” In years past, we have often headed west, traveling to our favorite state, New Mexico, to ski in Red River or Santa Fe. Last year we ventured a little farther and visited colleges on the west coast. This year we decided to do something different, so we headed in the opposite direction, east to New Orleans, Louisiana. Along the way, we were blessed with some good ole lagniappe, a little something extra.

We headed out I-10 on a beautiful spring morning with Baton Rouge as our goal. Our youngest was happily plugged into her iPod, while my husband and I used the opportunity to catch up. We were making such good time that my husband suggested we try to have lunch in Lake Charles. I glanced at my watch and determined that while he might not mind eating lunch at 3 in the afternoon, I might eat the Texas Monthly I was perusing before then. So, we compromised and stopped at Moz, just outside of Beaumont, owned by good friends of a dear friend of our’s. While we were enjoying some of the best burgers we’ve ever eaten (the buns were out of this world), we glanced up at the t.v. and saw that we had a new Pope! We were excited to see the crowds outside St. Peter’s and to watch the curtains part for our first glimpse of Francis I.  It didn’t bother us that we seemed the only people interested in this news; we just hoped no one would change the channel.

After carb-loading, we took our Big Gulps with us and hit the road again. The scenery changed rapidly as we left East Texas and crossed the Louisiana border, traveling through bayous and swamps. There was suddenly a profusion of billboards advertising nearby gambling venues with the requisite 1-800 number to call if one suspects one suffers with a gambling problem. Soon we were passing through Breaux Bridge and crossing the Atchafalaya Swamp. My daughter told us about a reality show that she and her sisters watch called “Swamp People,” which profiles the good people of this area who hunt gators for a living and catch fish with their bare hands. (It must be on between episodes of “Kourtney and Kim Take Miami.“)

Before long, we found ourselves on the banks of the mighty Mississippi River in Baton Rouge, home of Louisiana State University. My husband cannot pass up an opportunity to visit a college campus whenever one is near, especially one with a good football and/or basketball team, so we headed directly for LSU and its stadium.  Imagine our surprise when, after parking across from the stadium, we saw a large animal enclosure with a giant tiger roaming around inside. We joined other onlookers for a close-up with Mike VI, LSU’s mascot. He was a beautiful beast who entertained us by running around his grounds and giving us plenty of photo ops. I don’t know which site was more thrilling, Mike’s habitat or the Pete Maravich basketball arena next door, of which my hubby took just as many photos. That night we ate delicious fresh Gulf seafood and rested up for another day of travel.

The next day dawned just as beautiful as the day before. I recommended that we eat breakfast at an old diner touted by Southern Living magazine. All agreed, so we entered Louie’s Cafe, which indeed looked like an old greasy spoon, with emphasis on greasy. The kitchen was right in the middle of the room which allowed patrons to observe the pancake flipping and egg scrambling. While the folks at So. Living recommended a seafood omelette, our tastes were more pedestrian at that hour of the morning. My husband and I enjoyed eggs, grits and massive cloud-like biscuits, while our daughter rapturously exclaimed over plate-size chocolate chip pancakes. Luckily, she shared a few bites with us and we thought we’d gone to breakfast heaven. We suddenly became aware of the chef, (Louie?), talking in a loud Cajun drawl to his assistant, “Financial plannin’ are 2 words that ain’t ever been in my vocabulary; but, if I’da known I was gonna live so long, I woulda planned to have some finances!” Ain’t it the truth?

Chuckling, and promising not to eat again until dinner, we headed down the winding River Road which runs beside the Mississippi River towards New Orleans.  Our first stop was Nottaway Plantation, completed in 1859, the largest remaining mansion in the South, according to my magazine article. We planned to simply stroll the grounds, but upon arriving learned that a guided tour was scheduled in just ten minutes. So, we joined other tourists on the expansive front porch of the three-story columned mansion overlooking the river. Soon, the doors opened and a woman costumed in antebellum dress entertained us with stories of the house and its inhabitants for the next hour. The rooms of this house were amazing, all featuring beautiful cypress timbers gathered and dried on the property, and  detailed frieze work on the crown molding, made of mud, water and Spanish moss gathered by slaves.  The most beautiful room in the house was a large ball room, painted white because the owner wanted the beauty of his daughters and their finery to stand out and not contrast with anything in the room. I told my daughter that when I returned home, all the rooms in our house were going to be re-painted.

Next we stopped at Oak Alley, the quintessential Southern mansion at the end of a quarter-mile road shaded by massive oak trees symmetrically planted on either side. There were many more tourists here, as the Oscar-nominated movie Django IMG_1490Unchained was filmed here and on other nearby plantations.  Oprah has dined here, also, which monumentally increased tourism, I’m sure. It was a lovely mansion, but the interiors were not quite as grand as Nottoway. Just when our interest began to wane,  we were offered refreshing mint juleps and fresh-squeezed lemonade at the end of the tour. Enjoying them on a bench under a 300-year old live oak, we found ourselves speaking in exaggerated southern accents. “I think I could live hee-ah,” I said. “Why, me too, lil’ lady,” my husband genteelly replied. Our daughter suppressed a smile and suggested we move along to New Orleans. So, we reluctantly re-joined the 21st century and endured the traffic on I-10. We spent the next three days enjoying New Orleans, as always; the wonderful food, beautiful Jackson Square, the shops and street vendors in the French Quarter, and shopping on Magazine Street. But, we all agreed that the magical part of the trip was the lagniappe along the way, that little something extra.

Update: Preventive Medicine

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I recently posted “Preventive Medicine – The Real Deal,” on March 4, 2013. Check out yesterday’s San Antonio Express-News, page A2, “Study Focusing on Cancer-Fighting Foods,” by Jennifer R. Lloyd, featuring Dr. Michael Wargovich. He is the Ph.D. researcher that I referenced in my post. I realize I left out an important fact upon which he supports his research: that is, “…undetectable chronic inflammation sets people up for illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, obesity and diabetes.” His research has shown that the things I mentioned in my post, fruits, vegetables, tea, and spices, have properties that reduce this inflammation and therefore reduce the risk of cancer. The article states that Dr. Wargovich will present a free lecture about his research soon, with details to be announced on CTRC.net, if you’re interested in hearing it straight from the expert’s mouth.

Visit to Another Time and Place

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IMG_0005Last weekend was the beginning of Spring Break, and I decided it was  time for a field trip. My father joined us on a trip to Austin for a tour of the newly-renovated Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum. Dad hadn’t been to Austin in many years, though he’d attended UT for both college and law school. Over the years, he told us stories of his time in Austin, when he lived at “Mrs. Weller’s.”  He described it as a 2-story house with a detached guest apartment on Nueces at 26th, just behind the Tri-Delt House. He said it was across from Seton Infirmary and next to the Sisters of Charity Foundling Home. He told us that he was the first from Cuero to live at Mrs. Weller’s, but many other Cuero boys followed him there.

Saturday dawned rainy and cool. We traveled from Cuero on the new toll road, joining it just north of Lockhart, speed limit 85 mph! I am happy to report that Dad’s Mercury cooperated. Arriving at the library, it was just as I remembered: an unattractive, imposing, massive monument of off-white concrete, marble and brick on the edge of campus, across from that other massive monument, the Darrell K. Royal stadium. Once inside, however, the importance of the office of the President of the United States was apparent. The massive marble staircase leading up to four floors of crimson-bound archives was indeed impressive. A Lincoln Continental limousine specially made for President Johnson, parked in front of a life-size photo of a White House portico was something, also. And, lining an entire wall was every pen used by the President to sign bills and legislation. As much as we and the media talk familiarly, and, often disrespectfully, about the president, his library is a reminder of the auspiciousness of the office.  We proceeded up the marble staircase to view the permanent exhibits. Telephones were perched at nearly every corner; we could pick one up and listen to the actual voices of President Johnson speaking to Martin Luther King, Jr., Jackie or Rose Kennedy, J. Edgar Hoover, or any number of other relevant figures of the day.  There were also relics of the period to take you back in time, such as a film clip of Julie Andrews singing “The Hills Are Alive,” from “The Sound of Music,” and the Beatles’ singing “Love Me Do” on The Ed Sullivan Show. Around another corner was a pair of “far out” rainbow-colored sandals and a poster advertising a music festival with Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. There were G.I. Joe dolls and Dr. Seuss books on display, and t.v. commercials rolling in the background, “Double your pleasure, double your fun with Doublemint, Doublemint, Doublemint Gum!” Also, of course, there were exhibits showcasing the many bills that were passed during LBJ’s tenure as president: The Civil Rights bill, the Voting Rights Act, the passage of Medicare and Medicaid, funding for PBS and NPR, on and on. And, the many sad reminders of a horrible war in Vietnam and the President’s ultimate decision not to run for another term as President.

While walking through the exhibits, my 18-year old said, “If I had a time machine, I would LOVE to go back to the ’60’s and ’70’s.” “Why?” I asked. She said it seemed so exciting; there were “movements,” of which young people were a part, that changed the world forever. I tried to remember that era. I was a young girl, still in elementary school, but I recall the fear of practicing nuclear bombing drills and hiding under my school desk. I also remember listening to the nightly news, and praying that my brother wouldn’t be drafted.  And, I worried that everyone who ran for public office or accomplished something good would be murdered, after seeing President Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy assassinated on t.v. But, other than that, in my world in Cuero, Texas, it didn’t seem to me that anything profound was occurring. In fact, life seemed just about the same as it does today. We watched t.v., listened to music, went to school and were just kids. Yet, in the library last Saturday, I passed by a black woman around my age, who wiped tears from her eyes after viewing a short film of  Johnson’s speech begging Congress to give blacks and Mexicans the right to vote, ending his speech with the stirring words, “We shall overcome.”

After a couple of hours in the library, we left and went to lunch on the Drag. We all asked Dad questions about “those days” over heaping plates of eggs, pancakes, chips, queso, and iced tea. He told us about visiting LBJ’s Ranch before Kennedy’s election, and how everyone cheered when former President Truman introduced Lyndon and Ladybird. My kids couldn’t believe that my dad had been an eye-witness to all that we’d just seen, read, and heard about at the museum.   From the restaurant dining room, I looked out and saw the Tri-Delt House. I pointed it out to my dad, who said, “Well, what’s that behind it?” It was one of many cookie-cutter high-rise apartments designed for students who lived on West Campus. “That’s where Mrs. Weller’s is supposed to be,” Dad said. We got in the car and rode slowly by.  There was a parking garage where the Seton Infirmary used to be. And not a sign of the former children’s home.  “Anywhere else you’d like to go, Dad?” He didn’t think so. We slowly pulled away from campus and headed home.

One Child Gone, One Cat Gained

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IMG_0789One of my daughters has fled the nest. Caitlin, my UT grad, accepted a job in late December and moved to Dallas in January. But, before she graduated last May, she told me that she had “fostered” two kittens from Austin Pets Alive. “What does that mean?” I asked, envisioning her taking them to kitten play dates and helping them learn cat skills. How does that work in the animal world? She explained that she was merely helping the shelter as they were overwhelmed with kittens, and she would provide assistance until they found a home. Yeah, right. I could see where this was heading.  When she came home for a visit last spring, she brought with her “Nacho,” a kitty the color of Rico’s cheese, and “Pablo,” exhibit A, attached. We were emphatic that these kittens were her responsibility, including any costs associated with them. She understood. Then Nacho started assaulting Pablo, pouncing on him for no reason and denying him his share of kitty chow.  Our daughter decided she had to let big, bad brother go. So, we helped her by posting ads in San Antonio on flyers and in neighborhood newsletters. Soon, my phone was ringing off the hook. A nice young man, whose girlfriend had just left him and taken her cat with her, wanted that little orange ball of fluff. I called my daughter who was thrilled. But, before long she called back saying that Austin Pets Alive, whose mission, I presumed, was to keep pets alive, wanted to screen the potential adoptive parent. They insisted that the person come to Austin, fill out paperwork, meet with an adoption counselor, and pay $125 for the cost of neutering and a microchip.  I had the unpleasant task of calling the lonely guy and explaining the terms; he agreed that a trip to the Animal Defense League might be more reasonable.  Eventually, my daughter took Nacho to a Pets Alive-sanctioned adoption event where she was able to unload, oops, I mean find a good home for him.

Pablo, however, was another story. She claimed she just couldn’t part with him because he was the runt of the litter and she “liked little things.” Fine, but we reiterated the terms: HE IS YOUR CAT AND YOUR RESPONSIBILITY. She soon found herself paying vet fees and buying kitty litter. When she moved home in July to look for work, Pablo came meowing home with her. For awhile this all was working well, as she kept Pablo close by her side. Soon, however, our daughter had a full-time job and Pablo was home alone with me. I decided that my first task was to acclimate him to our 12-year old dog, Maggie. No problem; he thought jumping out of bushes and swatting at her wagging tail was great fun. Next, I had to teach him not to scurry up my new grasscloth in the kitchen as if it’s bark on a tree. Each time he did, I gently placed him outside on the patio with the warning that he would have to live outside if he couldn’t learn the rules. Now, however, he uses reverse psychology on me. He scratches the grasscloth to get my attention, he gets thrown outside, and is exactly where he wants to be.

Initially, my kids tried to rationalize Pablo’s presence in our home by saying they’ll soon all be gone and I’ll have a cat to keep me company. I must admit, it’s as if I’ve got a toddler again. He follows at my heels wherever I go, stands outside the clear door as I shower, watching my every move, and, as soon as my cheeks hit the toilet seat, just like each of my children did when they were young, he is there crying for attention.  Even with the door shut, he flails his little cat arms under the door trying to figure out a way in. And, he brings presents which he proudly lays at my feet: half-dead lizards. But, just when I think I can’t take his antics anymore, I hear my husband call him. “Greg?” (because that was the name given him by the shelter, and my husband thinks it’s less cutesy,) “Come on, little buddy, let’s watch the game!” (Poor guy; he’s lived too long in a house full of women.) And, when I curl up in a chair to read, I call for Pablo, who jumps up,  purring, to warm my lap.

Caitlin was sad when she realized she couldn’t take Pablo to live with her in Dallas, but the management of her new apartment doesn’t allow pets. (Note that this didn’t stop her when she lived in Austin and we paid her rent.) She misses him terribly and frequently asks us to send pictures of him. We do, but would hate to tell her that, in true cat fashion, Pablo doesn’t even notice her absence.  She says she wants him to come live with her as soon as she moves to another apartment complex next summer. We have more bad news for her.  “Sorry, Caitlin; he’s our kitty now.” But, we’ll reimburse the vet fees.

Firstborn

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IMG_0062My first baby turns 25 today. I still remember the day she was born as if it was yesterday. After 20+ hours of labor, I was a mom, my husband was a dad, my parents had their first granddaughter, and life felt grand.  A quarter century of days, months, and years have passed, and although I recall the milestones, her first words, first steps, first day of school, First Communion, I am now trying to remember some of the little things in between.

I remember seeing her stand up for the first time after hoisting herself up by the straps of my chaise lounge while my girlfriend and I enjoyed margaritas poolside in Galveston.  Her little sister arrived when she was two, and despite her excitement about the baby’s arrival, a night or two later, lying in her new “big girl bed,” she managed to stuff her nasal passages with her blanket fuzz necessitating a trip to the pediatrician for extraction. We were both sobbing. I remember when she was 3 or 4 and  I went to check on her during her afternoon nap. She’d heard me coming and covered her head under the blankets on her bed. When I playfully pulled them back, I shrieked in horror. She had decided to take school safety scissors and trim her bangs…all the way across her forehead and back behind her hairline. Trust me, she didn’t miss a hair. For the next few months, she wore a really cute denim cap at all times. I remember taking her to her grandparents’ for weeks in the summer where she played side by side with her cousins, swimming,  jumping on the trampoline, cooking in “Kids’ Kitchen,” and filming movies, complete with costumes and props gathered from my parents’ attic. As a toddler, she played on my parents’ floor with “drums” made of upside down empty cartons of cool whip and margarine, helpfully provided by my mother. I can see her on summer vacations with her sisters and cousins in New Mexico, fishing, square dancing, hiking the “Secret Trail” and looking for bears with a spotlight after dark. When she was 9, using her Minnie Mouse rod, she caught one of the biggest trout of the year in Red River, meriting her picture on the wall at Williams’ Trading Post.  Eventually under her father’s tutelage, she advanced to a fly rod spending many hours learning how to whip the line and place the fly just so.  Before I could blink she turned 16, and my father and I took her to New York City to see the sights. We happened upon the red carpet outside The Waldorf and saw all of the 2004 inductees of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame parade inside. She struck up a lively conversation with Chubby Checker, who was standing nearby, having no idea of his identity!   She had another brush with fame when she spotted Spur Tony Parker at a restaurant and decided to practice her high school French, while asking for an autograph. A short time later we were dropping her off at college, watching her wave gleefully, my husband and I riding the 250 miles home in stunned silence. Four years later, we were cheering her graduation and packing her up for a move to Mississippi and a Master’s program. Today, we are enjoying the gift of having her home again as she prepares to launch into the next phase of her life, one that she’s worked hard for the past six years to achieve, admission to a doctoral program in the field of child psychology. She was granted acceptance yesterday, and we will soon be helping her move to Auburn, Alabama. And, after another few short years, she will be a doctor to a child looking to her for counseling and guidance.

Wow! We are the parents of a 25-year old, and time has really flown.  When she was a baby, I  mentioned to my mother that I couldn’t imagine sending my precious little girl off to school someday.  Mom said something reassuring that has stayed with me all these years, “You’ll always be ready for the next stage.” And she was right.  I wouldn’t give anything for the chance to go back and re-live any of it.  We’ve always been happy to see her through each stage and then watch her navigate the next. I don’t mean to say each has been easy or always pleasant, but we enjoyed the ride with her through each one. And, we look forward to the many phases and stages to come.

Happy 25th Birthday, Claire Louise!