If I Could Save Time in a Bottle

Ari Half Moon Bay

“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


Ariel in 2013, with Dona.

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.

An earlier birthday girl also loved black horses.

An earlier birthday girl also loved black horses.

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.

Ariel in the Summer of 2014.

Ariel in the Summer of 2014.

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).

Ariel on Dona in 2005, trusted friends ever since then.

Ariel on Dona in 2005, trusted friends ever since then.

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!!”

Birthday Past 2013.

Birthday Past 2013.

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.

Ari and Byttersweet in 2008.

Ari and Byttersweet in 2008.

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!

~ Mommy

PS – Yes, I am making you a flan instead of a birthday cake 🙂

ari and me

Ariel and me 1999.

Ariel in Summer 2014.  Photo © Visual Stimulus Photography

Ariel in Summer 2014. Photo © Visual Stimulus Photography

Ariel in 2011.  Photo © Visual Stimulus Photography

Ariel in 2011

Rites of Passage: My New Driver

My daughter, Ariel,  got her driver’s license yesterday.  It was a momentous occasion. I am not sure if it was a greater rite of passage for her or for me.  She is busy applying for jobs and trying to back me into a  new schedule in which I will be permitted only limited use of my car.  And I am wondering why that sweet six year old that used to hitch her dog to her Radio Flyer wagon couldn’t stay with me longer.

Getting a driver’s license is not what I remembered.  We made our first attempt at it the day before, unsuccessfully.  Thinking I was prepared, I had brought her passport with me for identification, which was woefully short-sighted.   We were required to produce her passport, her birth certificate, her social security card, two pieces of government mail addressed to her at our house, proof of insurance for the test drive vehicle and her driving permit.  I think that when I got my first driver’s license, my mother vouched for my identity and everything else, but I digress.

When Ariel was 18 months old, a friend’s younger sister interviewed me for a college essay.  She asked me how my life had changed since becoming a mother. I told her, “Remember how your mother always told you not to run with scissors in your hand?  When you become a mother, you feel at all times that you are running with scissors in both hands.  With the pointy-ends up.  Toward a cliff.”

All these years later, it’s still true.  When you’re young, you go through life blithely ignorant of your own fragility and with a saucy indifference to the world of things that could go wrong.  I can’t say that changed for me the instant Ariel was born, but I can recall with exquisite clarity the first time I held her and I realized that she was holding me back.  In that moment, you realize just how much you have to lose and how easily you could lose it.

On December 23, 2011, I was out late doing holiday shopping.  At 11:30 p.m. the phone rang. A few minutes later my husband called down the stairs, “Ariel has been in a car accident.”  She was taken by ambulance to the emergency room because she had hit her head.  Three hours later, after examining the x-rays, the ER doctor explained that there is nothing that can be done for a fractured cheek bone unless the eye socket becomes unstable.  (I wonder if doctors realize the impact of their words.)

Ariel is fine.  To me, the accident was a blessing because if she is a tiny bit more cautious, a tiny bit more worried about what her friends are doing behind the wheel, and a tiny bit more aware of how quickly you can be grabbed by the undertow, then it was  a priceless lesson.

Today I will put her on our insurance and she takes her first steps out onto her journey for independence.  She is smart and beautiful and full of life and talent and possibilities.  With a little more freedom for her between us, I will do my best to encourage her to go while still trying steer her away from the undertow, away from the darkest part of  the woods, and away from all those dangers that I ignored when I was blithely ignorant and full of saucy indifference.