“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent.”
― Carl Sandburg
Today is a special day. The light of my life celebrates her nineteenth birthday.
It is such a cliche to ask where the time has gone. Last week, I was looking at framed photographs of her through the years, and experienced nostalgia that was nearly panic, looking into the familiar eyes, the familiar face, the smile filled with baby teeth, of that beloved child. That child is lost to me forever, at least those earlier versions. Every year, she is replaced with the current, updated version of herself. I love them all, but I cannot help but miss the Ariels of Birthdays Past, even as I love the current and future Ariel more every minute.
Today she is everything on my list of gratitudes. Whenever I doubt myself, my life, my choices, I know I have this one thing that turned out perfectly because of me and in spite of me.
The funny thing about time is that the hours and days seem to pass so slowly sometimes, but the years pile up in a hurry. We could probably adjust to it more easily if it were only the time that were passing, but in reality, with it, time drags everything into a constant evolution.
The baby who held my earlobe for security and played with pairs of plastic animals in the bathtub all too quickly became the toddler who told me, “Ah, shit!” from her car seat one January when I told her that Kiddieland was closed for the winter.
I remember the first time she insisted on walking into school on the first day of first grade without me, dressed in a purple down parka, with a backpack that was so big next to tiny her that it almost dragged the ground. She trudged up the gothic stairs at the Lab School, her blonde curls bouncing in the wind, and when she didn’t even turn back to see me in the car line, I cried. I want her to be independent. I want her to not need me. But maybe not just yet (even still).
When Ari was seven, we bought a pony that ended up being not suitable for a child. We found this out when the pony spooked at the barn owner’s dog and sent me sailing in a fall that left me biting through the nerve in my lower lip, my helmet breaking (saving my nose), gravel embedded in my face, and a bruised kidney. As I leaned over the bathroom sink trying to determine if the grit I was spitting out was my teeth or arena gravel, I heard the other barn kids asking Ariel if her mother was alright, to which she screamed, “Well she would be if it weren’t for your asshole dog!!”
I can recall a million tiny details. A million moments in time that, when woven together, knit my favorite story of all time, a story where the heroine is a sassy, intelligent, resourceful and hilarious beauty with the golden tresses, the dazzling smile and sparkling blue eyes even better than a Disney princess.
I am grateful. I am grateful for each moment and each memory. I am grateful for all those bathroom stops we had to make on every road trip; I am grateful for the times we went to war over homework; I am grateful for the Halloween costumes and the pink birthday parties and the back to school shopping, and the friend dramas, and the messy bedroom and the undone chores and the done chores. I wouldn’t trade a minute of it.
Today, she is a freshman in college and we are beginning the next chapter in this wonderful book. I am so proud of you, Ari, and I am so grateful to have you for my daughter. Happy Birthday. I love you!
PS – Yes, I am making you a flan instead of a birthday cake 🙂