Saturday, May 24, 2008

Nora [Ellie]

Nora is five. I can hardly believe it. She's my baby. The one who broke me into motherhood. I still feel like I'm new at this, so how can she be five?

I called to register her for Kindergarten this fall.

We bought her a big girl bike with training wheels and a helmet and watched her ride away from us around the block.

Why didn't anyone warn me she'd grow up this fast? I guess they did; I just wasn't listening. I was too busy wishing she'd grow up. Wishing she'd learn to walk. Wishing she'd learn to use the potty. Wishing she'd learn her letters. Wishing she'd learn to clean her room. I spent so much time wishing for each new milestone and so little time rejoicing when it came. It was like her achievements were on a to-do list to be checked off in my planner. First word? Ah, yes. Check!

What's next?

What's next is, this afternoon she's modeling her new summer clothes, size 6, that I bought her. (I swear it was size 6 months just yesterday!) She looks tall and slender, blond, blue-eyed and beautiful. She has long legs--must be from her dad's side. I think about what boys will think of her some day soon, and I am overcome by the frantic desire to lock her away in a tower until she's 30. Maybe Rapunzel's witch gets a bad rap. Maybe she just wanted to protect Rapunzel from growing up too fast.

But here, now, I just want to rejoice for a minute. Stop thinking ahead and let myself love who she is right now.

This is who she is:
She is the sort of little girl who will give a hug to the neighbor boy who has Down Syndrome, even though the other girl she's playing with jerks away in disgust.

And this:
She is the sort of little girl who hears from her friend, "Look! My airplane is the biggest. Bigger than yours!" And responds, "Cool! Yours is the biggest, and mine can be the fastest!"

And this:
She is the sort of little girl who dances and sings her own musical performances just to express the joy she feels inside.

And this:
She is the sort of little girl who wandered out alone in the rain searching for me because she wanted to go running with me and my running buddy.

This is who she used to be:
It's twilight in Champaign, Illinois, and Nora is two-and-a-half. Little blond Nora is wandering around the front yard of our apartment building in a pink sun-dress catching fireflies. There are hundreds out in the yard tonight, their abdomens glowing, rising, and vanishing. She catches one and brings it over. "This one's for you, Mommy," she says with her two-year-old lisp. She catches another, "This one's for you, Daddy." It's her bedtime, but the moment enchants Bryan and I so much that we can't end it too soon. I am watching her and I'm so completely happy that I must be glowing, too.

And this:
It's eight o'clock at night. For some reason I don't remember now, Bryan's gone and I'm putting Nora to bed alone. Nora is three and we've had a big blow-up over something I've now forgotten. I am worked up outside her bedroom door and she is worked up inside. She's sobbing, and I'm thinking, "I hope she's learning her lesson, the little stinker!" And then I hear her start talking through her sobs. "Dear Heavenly Father," she says, "please help me to be happy." She says this over and over, with a little catching sob as she pronounces "happy." I go in and hold her as we both cry.

And this:
I'm in the hospital after having Andrew. Bryan, my mother, and Nora have come to visit us. My mom has carefully worked Nora's hair into two little pigtails on both sides of her face. She is worried about me in my hospital gown, on the bed unable to get up. She wants to come up and hug me for reassurance. Then the baby is brought in. Immediately, Nora wants to hold him. With Grandma's help she takes him on her lap. She's not sure what to do with him, so we suggest, "Why don't you sing him a song?" Without hesitation, she begins, "I am a child of God, and He has sent me here. . ."

And this:
We're at the mall playground on a snowy day. I watch as Nora fearlessly goes up to another girl and asks her to play. They rush around, giggling and holding hands, utterly unselfconscious and gleeful. The girl's mother catches my eye and we smile. They are the same age. They are both wearing pink. Of course they will be friends. It's so simple. I am so impressed by Nora's confidence and friendliness. I want to preserve it forever, but I can already see a hesitancy developing. Other children have sometimes rejected her. Will this one? I think I can hardly bear to see her hurt this way, yet I know she will be some day. Maybe again and again. I wish I could save her from this.

I can't believe it's possible to love someone as much as I've come to love her over these five years. I can't believe I can be as mad at someone as I've been at her. I struggle to teach and sometimes to control, and she shows me that she will learn when she's ready and holds her own keys to the future.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Nora's Dance Recital

Nora had her first dance recital last Tuesday. It was fun to watch her have so much fun. Here is some footage. If you can't tell, Nora is in a black dress, in the center of the image.

Nora's ballet number

Nora's tap dance number

Picture of Nora and her dance friends