Thea’s Birthday

My youngest just had a birthday. Sometimes I forget how old I am, like when I am deciding to climb a ladder to get on the roof to clean my skylights or when I decide to move furniture that weighs more than I do. The age of my youngest reminds me with a loud voice that time is passing. My oldest insists on inching closer to the median of some arbitrary measure of mid-life, but that never seems to startle me with the same vigour as Thea having had her second “I’m no longer in my twenties” sort of celebration. And … it got me thinking.

It went by too fast. It is always too fast when looking in the rear-view mirror. There should be a reminder, like the small print on the side mirror of my car, saying “old age is closer than you think”. Words should flash on the bathroom mirror every morning while I am brushing my teeth to warn me not to waste the moments, not to let one single experience slip through my fingers. Sadly, that’s not how being human works, even when we strive for such. We are forgetful at times, aren’t quick to forgive, give importance to some things that don’t deserve it, and often think we are too busy to take time to call a friend, to seize the moment when someone needs us.

I have a full trunk of memories for each of my daughters. When I can’t sleep at night, which is often, I open one of those mental trunks and wiggle the memories loose to freshen them, to let the air in so the memories might never wander off and leave me. One can only hope. Some are tiny moments, snapshots, and others take time to wander through. My memory is like a large room with poster-sized images made to stand back to take in and thumbnail prints that I must squint at to see clearly. I have a numbers brain that loves to store meaningless data such as due dates, birth dates, birth time, length of labour, onset of labour, birth weight. I chose not to remember their length, for no reason that I can recall.

In honour of Thea’s birthday, I wiggled loose her trunk of memories. I nestled into my comfy chair, my morning coffee at the ready. I closed my eyes and slowly turned the memory pages that are witness to the privilege of being her mom.

Thea was the last of four girls. She was born breech that had me proclaiming had she been my first, she would have been my only. We laugh about that, as I annually remind her — “it hurt.” I can’t imagine that she has tired of hearing that. She was perfect. Being born bum first preserved her lovely head from being misshapen despite her dislocated hip. But those details only matter to me. She has lovely burnt-orange hair, her eyes almost matching. She has long fingers that grant her the innate ability to play the piano, a sound that soothes all my worries and fears. I stretched out on the sofa beside the piano while she practised, before her feet could reach the floor, and I was transported. The sound is in my book of lists under Soothing Thoughts.

Thea is kind, everyone’s friend, her laugh boisterous and easy. She does not let Type 1 diabetes limit her from being all she wants to be. She played/plays sports with every ounce of her soul, with no sense of self-preservation, as if the very future of the free world hangs in the balance. She is wise — she has taken life’s difficulties and turned them into lessons that hone her wisdom. She is a resting place for all who love her.

My favourite memories of all are the precious moments of nighttime feedings, the room dimly lit by the unicorn nightlight, the creak of the rocking chair, its rhythm slipping me into another dimension where there was no one else on earth except my baby Thea and me, the two of us floating just above the Earth, all fatigue left on the ground. Those were the moments of being totally indispensable, the connection between mother and infant so complete that nothing else was needed. So, as I age and the list of what I can no longer do will start to outshine the list of what I have been able to do, I ask my children to be kind to me, while reminding them I used to wipe their bums, and my memories of them will carry me home.