She said, “You haven't written about me.”
And she's right.
All the things I have written since I became a mother have been about her. She is my daughter. I am not the person I am without her. But technically she's right. I havent written solely about her.
So I thought about it. Why havent I written about her? My most lame excuse is because she's hasn't moved out.
I haven't thought about life without her and consequently life with her.
My other sorry excuse is that writing has been much more difficult lately. Peri-menopause is
No. Joke. It feels as if someone is stirring your brain.
The real truth is that I have always always felt that I could never be a mother to a daughter. I was a needy scattered daughter with a needy scattered mother. I was terrified to have a girl and I have cried many tears over the breathtakingly tender gift that is my girl, Bethany Kate. I often feel that I have let her down and failed to be what she needed me to be, a strong wise gentle woman. So when she reminded me (in her quiet questioning way) that I had not written about her, I knew it was true for all the wrong reasons.
So I began to pray and ask God what I should write.
I prayed and prayed.
Then one day this picture popped in my head.
2002. We were on her first trip to Disney World. The whole family had flown to Florida to have a Disney vacation courtesy of my in-laws who worked at WDW. This meant that sometimes we entered the park through alternate ways. This morning we were going in by way of a hotel that had beautiful topiaries out front trimmed to the shape of different characters. At age five she was actually a two year veteran of dance lessons and loved to watch the “big girls” who danced “real ballet”. So when I saw the hippo and alligator (from the movie Fantasia) on pirouette I suggested she jump up on the low wall and pose with them for a picture. I awkwardly did my ballerina imitation (”like this”). She gracefully mimicked me (10,000X better) and I snapped away.
This is the picture the Lord reminded me of.
Because of the story she recently told me.
My grown kids are now of an age where they delight in telling me the “real” story from their childhood adventures. The things that happened when I left them alone, or at a friends house, or the back story on getting away with something. (They relish my dismay and disbelief at some of these tales. And sometimes I wonder if we really were at the same place at the same time.)
Anyway, she relates the back story of this photo.
She says she had no idea what the heck I was telling her to do. She had no idea that the bushes were animals or that they were Disney characters or that they were doing ballet poses. She was completely clueless as to why I had her pirouette. But as you can see there she is. Mugging it up. All sweetly graceful and little girl charm. Even a little goofy grin in the squinty hot Florida sun.
And no clue why she was doing it.
That's my girl.
She has always - even when she didn't know why - trusted me. And she has always had a tender heart to obey what shes asked to do. I didn't make her that way. I certainly did appreciate it when she was small as it made my crazy busy mama life much easier. But that is the way she came to us.
Even if she did question or rebel what she was told to do, she still did it.
She would most always (she wasn't a saint) obey.
It's a part of who she is.
Its not popular now to say a girl was obedient. That she would do without question what you asked her to do. And I know it isn't always good to be the “good” girl. But she was and God has shown me that it is a part of her, her very heart to comply, to yield to others but mostly to Him.
She was the quiet one. The baby of a family of loud, exciting, daring, gregarious brothers. There were often other loud rude boys around who ignored her or excluded her from their good times. She tried to tag along but for the most part made no waves.
She was my girl. My girly girl. So when the boys were having their rough fun we did girl stuff. We did dresses and Mary Janes. We did dance lessons and American Girl dolls. We did doll houses and Madeline books. She complied with all the girly things I wanted to do, even hair curlers and ribbons. I think sometimes it was much more fun for me than her. She always went along with what I proposed and we had fun together.
I remember one day we were at Busch Gardens theme park. She and I had gone to the ladies room. It had a full length mirror by the exit door. I stopped and checked myself and told her “A lady always checks herself before she leaves the restroom, to make sure everything about her is in place.” I twisted in front of the mirror looking at myself with her in front of me, as I stepped aside she delicately fluttered her arms over her head like a flower and twirled around glancing at her self all the way around. Like a daisy in the wind.
Obedient, with a twist.
She loved fiercely as a little girl. She may have been the quiet one but she was your loyal companion if you were her friend. It became unthinkable to have a celebration without her pals. Heather was her super hero: her alter ego and guiding light. Her fellow dog and horse worshipper and confidant. They plotted business ventures together and talked the mothers into driving them to various barns to muck stalls to save money for their own horse someday. They had a kindred spirit that is true but Bethany's willingness to follow Heather's lead was the cement that held them together.
When she did get immersed into horses it was this same urge for obeying that made her a firm horse woman. I will never forget seeing this maybe 4'10” little teenage girl grab a giant huge over 6' tall horse by the lead rope and jerk his disobedient head down and bellow in her tiny voice “Walk On!” and the behemoth trembled slightly then acquiesced to her command. He could have easily shook her off like a fly but something stony in her voice convinced him otherwise.
I loved working at the barn with my Bethy Kate; switching roles and letting her be the teacher as she patiently showed me how to muck and groom and feed the ponies she loved so. One afternoon we were cleaning the empty barn as all the horses had been turned out into the field. As we finished she realized that a big storm was coming quickly and we had several horses to bring into the barn, quickly. They were in separate fields and had to come in separately. As we rushed out and began quickly snapping lead ropes onto horses' halters the heavens opened up. How we got all the ponies into the barn without slipping in the mud or a horse running away across the pasture or one of us getting trampled to death, only God knows. But my, how we laughed and laughed when we finished, as we stood there completely dripping, drenched, wet to the skin, in that barn, surrounded by the rain beating a tattoo on the metal roof and the horses quietly munching their early dinner. I didn't take lightly God's grace or the training she had instilled in those beasts, that day.
My little girl has suffered because of her obedient heart too. She has given too much to others and they used it up and demanded more from her. She has loved and trusted deeply that others were motivated by obedience too and it has hurt. Sometimes I think she doesn't even know how unprecedented her golden faith and trustful following appear to others. They don't think its real. No one could love that sacrificially. But she does.
Now we are on the doorstep of her last goodbye. She is ready to fly. She has put her hand in the hand of the man God had planned for her. She looks into his eyes with that same quiet obedience (and the same firmness of expectation). She is trusting that the Lord has her next chapter in His hands and she will follow – with doubts to be sure- but she will follow where He leads. Because He made her that way.
And Jesse, even if she doesn't know that the bushes are ballerinas.
If you ask her,
she will dance.