Happy birthday, Sweetie Pie!
May today be free of traffic and telemarketers, grouchy people and bills in your mailbox. May you get good cable reception, so you and your sister can watch Veronica Mars while eating Indian take-out. May you go to bed feeling loved by family, friends; the world.
I’m glad you got my birthday card. Apologies that all my love couldn’t fit into the envelope. To make amends, let me tell you a story. Conveniently, it is about you.
The year: 1994. You are eight, and like many kids watching the Winter Olympics, you are dazzled by the ice dancers in their sequined costumes and heavy makeup. They jump and twirl and perform moves that you (and the rest of us) don’t understand: axel, sow cow, lutz, etc. But no matter.
Amid the cheers of the crowd, you hear them call: “Julie! Be me! Be me! You can be me!” And thus, for a few glorious (and expensive) weeks, you became an ice skater.
Dad and I signed you up for lessons, rented and then purchased skates. We bought you a pretty pink outfit, the kind even mommies covet. You were not grace in motion (forgive me!), but you didn’t know that. Nor did you have to. It was your right as a kid to not link your dreams to your abilities. That’s something grownups do.
One night I walked into your room to tuck you in and you were crying. I sat and asked you what was the matter.
“I don’t want to be alone,” you cried.
“I’m right here.”
“No, I mean when I go to Colorado.”
“Where the skaters go.”
Ah, yes. Colorado Springs, where many famous skaters train and live — without their parents.
“I’m going to miss you so much.”
I nodded. “I’ll miss you too.”
“Can you move with me?”
Hmmm. What to say? I had come to a fork in the parenting road and knew that what I said would have a significance that extended beyond the moment.
But which road to take? The one that bee-lined toward the “Real World” (aka “Get Real World”)? Or the one that meandered, its edges sprinkled with seeds, any one of which could sprout?
I made my decision. “Sure, I’ll move with you,” I said
“What about Dad?”
“He won’t mind?”
You nodded. We hugged. I rubbed your back, kissed your cheek. You went to sleep. Months later, you stopped skating and began gymnastics. Another seed, another sprout.
Today, the thought of our moving anywhere together would be more nightmare than dream. (For both of us, by the way.) And so we live an hour from each other. I am far enough away so you can forget I’m around, but close enough for me to skate over when you need a kiss, a hug or rub on the back. Call me anytime.
So happy birthday my tattooed Olympian. I love you, love you, love you — and then some.