I sit her down on the babysitter’s floor. This is our last trip to Fran’s and my last day of work. Tomorrow, I’ll no longer work at the university or hold the title “public relations specialist.” Tomorrow, I will have one title only: Hannah’s mom.
She’s my little one.
I listen as Matt Lauer speculates about the crashing planes and falling towers. He says it may be an act of terror. I keep one eye on the TV as I pour more Cheerios onto Hannah’s highchair tray. I suddenly feel less equipped to be her mom – scared to raise her in a time of terror. I lift her out of the chair and hold her tightly.
I pray bravery over her. And she’s brave.
She’s not quite two. She brings me the magnetic schoolhouse filled with colorful letters. We sit on the floor, legs crossed, as she hands me each letter one by one, naming them as she goes. I begin teaching her numbers. We read and create stories. We fill our days learning and playing.
She’s smart and works so hard.
Nervously she hops up in the leather, high-backed chair. She takes in every machine and person in the room. Wearing her Big Sister shirt, she meets her baby brother for the first time. Her smile swallows her face. She can hardly contain herself as her Daddy steadies baby Owen on her lap. He’d spend the next year on that lap, being petted and talked to.
She’s the absolute BEST big sister.
She’s wearing purple pajamas and her cheeks are rosy. Her blonde curls fall across her shoulders. She squeals in delight, tip toeing down the hall, knowing the Easter Bunny arrived in the night. She’s just turned three.
She’s a delight – and always thankful.
We sing Happy Birthday quietly. She lays on the couch, looking longingly at her butterfly cake. I am not sure of the year, but she holds her ear tightly and smiles ever so slightly. Birthdays and earaches seem to go hand in hand for her, but she still smiles. Always smiling.
We visit her classroom and meet her teacher, Mrs. Lauderman. She smiles, taking it all in. She’s found heaven. The next day I walk her to the door, helping her put her backpack and lunchbox in her designated cubby. A kiss on the cheek and “I love you, Mom!” Is met with “Have a great first day, Hannah Banana! I love you!” Without a backward glance she hurries into her room. I walk to the van in tears. I am equal parts proud of her bravery and confidence and sad that she’s so ready for this next season of life.
She’s a learner who keeps an open mind and welcomes new experiences.
I can’t remember the word. It’s a simple word. One she knows well. She takes a deep breath and begins to spell…my heart drops. She’s out. It’s 3rd or 4th grade, and she’s beyond disappointed. We get in the car, and she tells me… Mom, I know how to spell it. I really do as tears fall from her eyes. I turn and comfort her, and then we make the five year rule. Will anyone remember who won this spelling bee in five years? No. Then, we let it go. (That’s still our rule.)
She gives grace to herself and others.
She dances across the stage to the drum’s beat while the strong voice belts out a song we call “Don’t Lose Your Indian.” Contemporary movements mixed with tumbling. I wonder how a girl so young can confidently perform a solo in front of such a large audience. I want her to do well, but her “place” today is irrelevant. This is my girl. A dancer, doing what she loves.
She’s dedicated, persevering through pain and long hours of practice.
The scrunched nose and furrowed brow tell me she’s concentrating with every fiber of her being. Her fingers move along the strings as the bow slides back and forth. She loves fiddle tunes – just like her great-grandaddy.
She loves music.
Her eyes are wide and chin quivering as she promises to take care of Owen. Her Poppy is dying, and she knows she must stay behind while Mom and Dad go to be with him. I can barely look her in the eye. She’s young but must shoulder the weight of losing one of her most favorite people. She learns in this moment to hold back tears and take care of others.
She’s still a caretaker.
She presses her face to the window, watching as the plane lands in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. She has almost 50 hats in her suitcase for those who have cancer. She plans to teach crochet to teen moms and build a house. But, she soon forgets her “to-do” list as she embraces the country and her people. She will return.
She desires to go into all the world, loving and serving others.
She hands me a gift for Mother’s Day. By now, we’ve weathered divorce together. The bracelet is beautiful, but my eyes focus on the hand-drawn heart with the words “we’ve got this.” Her belief in me is one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever been given.
She loves well.
She rounds the corner smiling, carrying her books. I look up from my computer and see a high school sophomore. Time stands still. I look down and back up at her. I can hardly believe that in just a few days she will be 16…
The little girl fishing at the campground, dancing on the stage, making faces at her Aunt Dawnna, holding onto her brother, sharing words of faith and confidence, grieving the loss of a Poppy and a marriage, learning at school, going into all the world, and loving others to a fault…God has grown that little girl into a young lady who is beautiful inside and out.
And, today, we celebrate the gift of Hannah.
Happy 16th Birthday, Gracie. You make me better, and I am so proud to be your momma. My prayer is that you always hold tight to faith and family, knowing how very much He – and we – love you.