Kylie turned 18 yesterday. We all woke up this morning and raced through the customary scramble to get to school as though nothing had changed, but something has. I just haven’t figured out exactly how.
The cliché regarding this passage, and it’s absolutely true, is that it seems like yesterday we were holding her for the first time. Her birth was pretty typical, really. There were 20 hours of brutal labor (which I can’t imagine). There was the relief of an epidural (which I also can’t imagine). There was my mother-in-law efficiently kneading Sherry’s back between contractions, briskly but gently humming a fight song, possibly “Cheer, Cheer for Old Grygla High,”? though not “Hurrah for the Red and White.”? There was the doctor who was summoned just after midnight, then called again 45 minutes later because he’d fallen back to sleep. Poor sleepyhead. He was there for the birth, so I bear no animosity. There was my first glimpse of her hairy crown, and her struggle to get past the ears which I blamed on genetically large Peterson ears (turns out her ears were of normal size, so I was wrong on that one). Finally, at 2:36 a.m. she was out, a red squawking spider of arms and legs, messy, adorable, the center of the universe, and it feels like yesterday.
It also feels like yesterday that she was about five years old, watching The Lion King or maybe Aladdin, and so mesmerized that, though she was terrified during the climactic scenes, she could not tear herself away. She’d watch the final scenes of those movies peeking out from behind the sofa, trembling but commanding her parents not to turn the movie off.
Yesterday there was also junior high, angst filled and complete with fiery email
missives regarding how unfair (aka: stupid) her parents are. Somewhere in here she discovered injustice on a broader scale, too, and cried for people she’d never met.
Then there’s been high school, real problems, real friends, real friends with real problems, real boyfriends with even worse problems, real joy, and very real pain. Did I mention tears? There have been tears. This yesterday bleeds into today, by the way.
The real yesterday, however, she stood on stage performing in Central’s competition One Act play. The brave cast was in front of an audience of boorish peers, and
Kylie was fearless. About eight minutes into the show (these things are precisely timed), she enters on heels, a short skirt, and a wig, saying, “Mrs. Smith, there’s a telephone call for you in the office.”? She does this breathlessly, like she’s a gumshoe’s secretary from a 1940’s radio drama, and the boors believe her. So do I. She’s amazing. Thrilling. Terrifying. Terrific. Like the angel Gabrielle in Sunday School Musical, or perhaps Uma Thurman. In that moment, she’s the exact center of the known universe – unknown, too — and though I don’t know how she got there, I’m glad. Proud.
What happens next is even better. She gracefully steps aside from her moment of glory and helps the rest of the cast blaze, one at a time, each in his or her own moment. By the end, the constellation is just right — each star brilliant and perfectly balanced with the others.
I still don’t know what’s happened in 18 years, but it’s been progress toward something authentically wonderful.
Happy Birthday, little spider. I love you.