Saturday, September 13, 2014

She's eighteen

Yesterday was my girl's birthday. We had a family gathering last night, and all day I worked to tidy the house, organise food, and (at the last minute) decided I wanted to put together a scrap book type of document for her, with some photos and comments, something that everyone could write in, memories of her, that sort of thing. It was a great success, the whole thing, except my speech.

Earlier in the day I'd been thinking about what I would say. I'd told the fam there would be the opportunity for speeches. My mother came prepared, with a folder, no less, of  'props' as she called them. She wrote in the book and then when it came to talking, after cake, she was eloquent and loving. My sister read out what she'd written in the book, and it was poignant. My brother spoke really well too, he's a natural. And then me. I'd been teary during the day when looking at photos and thinking about how much I love her, so maybe that's why, when it came to speaking, I kept it fairly business-like. I spoke about how I tidied her room yesterday, probably for the first time in ten years. I forgot to say why I did it, which was as a surprise for her (it was a real mess, a typical Year 12 out-of-control mess); the window ledge hadn't been cleaned in years, so much dust. A truckload of books beside the bed, little piles toppled. Her bedside table, also uncleaned for ages. And clothes everywhere. She was thrilled when she came home and saw it. She's got friends coming tonight and I thought it would help her to have it tidied, and so even though it's against my principles to tidy teen bedrooms, I did it this once, and in a weirdly emotional way, it felt like the last time.

In my speech I talked about the books that were beside her bed. How different they were to the ones I would have had beside my bed, at eighteen. For me it was Jackie Collins, Sid Sheldon, Stephen King. For her, I tidied up Middlemarch, War and Peace, several Henry James novels, an Anne Bronte one (the lesser-known sister); Crime and Punishment, that sort of thing, as well as a few non-fiction titles. Then I said it's been a very quick journey from The Lion King, Aristocats and Lady and the Tramp, to David Attenborough, then vampires and zombies - how quickly time has flown. That I was going to find her baby book to look up her first words, but that I knew the very first one was 'more'; and that somehow I would have been surprised not to see words like 'Mussolini' and 'Munch' and Oberfuhrer. That there probably has never been a thirteen-year-old girl who could give you a three-hour talk on the evolution of fashion and accessories from the Dark Ages through to the 1950s.

I didn't say anything I wanted to say, which was how proud I am of her, how much I delight in her company, how she feeds my intellect and how much I value the conversations we have. How fun she is, how thoughtful and mature and patient and loving. How she had quite a few difficult emotional things to deal with when she was little and through her teens: her dad not living with us, and living overseas; her beloved grandmother's cancer and all the trips to the hospital, through traffic along the diabolical Punt Road;  needing glasses at five; her best friend moving interstate; struggling with learning to read; becoming part of a family of steps (I think she's done best out of it; it's given her a group of people to be with, even though as an only child, she was maybe a bit lonely at times; she likes a bunch of people around her); breaking her ankle in Year 5; not seeing her dad for almost four years at a time when she needed that connection. This has all made her resilient and flexible, aware and able to manage her emotions in a healthy way.

Anyway, I will write these things in the book and if it comes to 21st speeches, I'll be better prepared. She knows all this, though, doesn't need some speech to know how I feel about her. I've told her frequently how wonderful I think she is.

Tonight she's got friends coming over. There'll be a brazier in the back yard and candles and lanterns and fairy lights. The theme is 'nostalgia' and I hope she has a lovely night.

Hope you are all well and making sure that you tell the people you care about that you love them, and why they mean so much to you. It's so important.