Wednesday, June 16, 2010
My Daughter's Childhood
Today is our neighbors' tiny daughter's second birthday. She was born four days after we moved into this old farmhouse so that's how I know.
I remember when my own daughter turned two. That day Tom and I kept telling her, "You're two now, Sweetie!" But she'd shake her head and say, "No! I'm three. I wanna be three now."
Ha! All that year she pretended she was three.
Oh, we had fun raising Naomi. Of course, when she was really tiny, I recall feeling tired an awful lot, but mostly? Mostly I remember the adventure of having my very own young child, how my goal was to give Naomi a dreamy, creative childhood she would remember fondly.
We put one of those baby seats on the back of my bicycle and Naomi and I often rode through old neighborhoods to the supermarket in our tiny country town. I'd place her back on the seat then plop a sack of groceries on her lap and we'd ride home, sometimes singing. Of course, the day came when she refused to hold that bag on her lap and I said good-bye to that grocery-getting convenience (I had no driver's licence at that time). But with a child, you're always saying good-bye to something.
Other times we walked to the town library inside a 1920's log cabin by the river where we'd skip rocks, then amble over to the post office to pick up the mail. We'd return home for lunch, a story and a nap, then afterward we'd play Candy Land for hours until Tom got home and I'd plead with him to play a few rounds.
We'd have company over to dinner, relatives, friends, for those were my favorite memories while growing-up and I wanted Naomi to keep similar ones. The three of us went tent camping most summers, I'd reach my hand to the car's backseat and she'd hold it (we later all laughed about that, though teen Naomi's laugh was more of a grunt) and we'd eat bad food and swim a lot and play in the sand. I'd lie in the tent at night in between my little family and feel inexplicably happy.
I grew Shasta daisies, cosmos and marigolds so Naomi would look back and remember there were flowers. We had birdbaths so she'd remember birds, strawberries and raspberries so she'd recall picking fruit in the backyard on clear, summer mornings.
As Naomi grew we let her have parties for any occasion, birthdays or Just Because days and weekend slumber parties, too. One year she had an invitation-only birthday party for our cats and I still remember standing at the door and thinking of Little Women while watching the five girls in the shady front yard reclining upon blankets on the lawn, relaxed, singing happy birthday to our cats, eating sweets and giving our cats their own treats. Watching that scene, I felt enchanted.
And grateful. I remember feeling so grateful for Naomi.
She and I had craft nights and I'd watch her tape and staple new clothes and make creations from the project box. While watching her I reminded myself that someday she'd be grown and gone away so I needed to memorize that little girl, age six, upon the living room carpet. I tried so hard to slow down time, to will it to stop for just one moment, but it sped by even faster at those times, as if laughing at my attempts. I thought it wasn't fair.
But it was fair and it was Life. And I would say that those years are gone, but you know? They're still here. Anytime I wish I can pull out a memory, shine it till it gleams, then put it back again. Because even in the midst of my tiredness during those early years, oh, I reminded myself to stay awake, to not turn my head, to not miss one single moment of my daughter's childhood.
Naomi at thirty...
Want another young Naomi story? Here's one.
And another with mentions of feeding seagulls.