I 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!