Reflections on a Birthday

It has been so long since I wrote an entry here that I had to reach into the recesses of memory to retrieve the blog’s password. I would like to say I wrote a novel in November, or that I have been doing anything glamorously related to writing at all, but the truth is that a series of pesky illnesses (mine, my husband’s, my children’s) and an amped up holiday season kept me from my goals. The New Year ushered in a wave of nesting activity and general anxiety that I can only attribute to the forthcoming, spring time arrival of Kintz Baby #3 – a boy, of all things … just when I’d gotten the girl stuff down.

This week has given me pause, though. Claire, our oldest, turned four yesterday, and aside from when she turned one – when all I felt was a wave of relief that we’d made it through the first year in one piece – C’s birthdays always give me a happy/sad feeling mingled with pride. Just as I found it hard to believe that the newborn I held in my arms had been living within me for nine months, I often find myself wondering how and when C morphed into who she is today, as if I have not been standing beside her this entire time.

Aside from sucking her index and third fingers backwards when she is tired or contemplative, there is absolutely no baby left in Claire. I am glad for that, happy that this little person of mine is already an individual who can assert herself with confidence, but I am also a little confounded by it, bracing myself for the complexity to come, for the drama of mothering a girl who is both highly sensitive and perilously strong willed.

My ideas about who Claire will become are based on who her father and I are, who we in combination have become, and Claire will surely go her own way on paths that we surmise to be alternately delightful and dangerous. Already, she is riding her bike (new, as of Saturday) with unsurprising flair, relishing the freedom of wheels and her two strong legs, pumping for all they are worth. As her mother, I know that all I can do is provide her with a helmet, a few lessons and a good dose of common sense and cross my fingers she will survive – a harbinger of the future. For now, I feel grateful that I’m only crossing my fingers about a bike with training wheels, and that today I can focus indulgently on the things I love about my girl.

Claire is remarkable to me because she is herself, and also, of course, because she is mine. I love her spunk and her compassion, her preferences for unruly hair, a pair of rainbow fairy wings and a good, solid snuggle at the beginning and end of each day. I admire and am astonished by her ability to dance outlandishly to Lady Gaga in front of all my husband’s co-workers, followed by stranger-hugs all around. I love her curiosity and her penchant for made up words and the hilarity of nonsense. I envy her effortlessly muscular legs (is that OK?) and give myself a little high five for her good hair.

Most of all, I love that I can still look her in the eyes and see the glimmer of who she was as an infant staring back – this little person, waiting for the world. Whenever that happens, she seems to know what I’m thinking – something that is too big to say – and she holds my face in both her hands and kisses me on the mouth; I hope it will always be that way.

Thanks to those of you who continue to check in on me and my writing, even though you know I haven’t had the presence of mind to do much with it at all. I’ll be posting an essay on Art House America’s site sometime in the next couple of weeks, and hope to blog as times allows. In case you missed it, I wrote a second essay for AHA in December entitled “Restoration,” about the healing power of reading. Enjoy!

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4 thoughts on “Reflections on a Birthday

  1. My mom turned 88 today and I bet if you asked her she would say that she sees a “glimmer of who I was as an infant”, just as I see in the eyes of my own children. Beautifully written, Towles.

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  2. Beautiful, Towles. I had a hard time reading this with becoming teary myself, thinking of my own girls and how much of what you wrote captured beautifully how I feel at the end of most days now—joy, wonder, pride, and a bit of nagging sadness and anxiety that time is moving too fast. But also excitement about all that lies ahead. A very happy birthday to Claire and congrats on Baby#3!
    -Holly

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  3. Towles, what a treasure for your little girl to read later. This was a beautiful post and I maybe shed a tear thinking how I can relate though Brooks will only be 3 here soon. What a gift to be a mother! I still remember her trying out her walking skills at the dog park when I first met you. Crazy what 3 years can do!

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  4. I want to echo the comment above…Claire will love reading this later and you will too. There is nothing like a little girl(s) and I should know!! Mimi

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