Thich Nhat Hanh once said, “every child is born in the garden of humanity as a flower.” Dalton and I delivered our first exotic bud during the wee hours of this very day, 40 years ago.
The confirmation that she would be arriving came 3 months after we married. We had been in the business of saving up for trips to Europe, oriental rugs and such. One day at my job as a library cataloger for The Mississippi College School of Law, I fell asleep at my desk. On the way home, I stopped by the Jitney Jungle and bought a new-fangled thing called the home pregnancy test. I told no one.
The next day after Dalton arrived home from his desk at Watkins, Pyle, Ludlam, Winter and Stennis, I handed over the bombshell. We rang our hands for one second and then speculated who might show up. Since we were without expectations, we spoke of the baby like a guest, an interesting guest who might have D’s mind and my quirkiness.
The baby/guest room and our best behaviors were preoccupations of the day. Music was foremost. Dalton installed a record player and sound system in the baby’s closet.
One day in early spring, D said that he thought we should name the babe Mary Ann for my mother. I thank him everyday in my heart. Turns out a namesake was the best gift I ever gave my mother.
Being the first of my friends with child, I was like an animal at the zoo, worth observing. Prophesier Bonnie Bee said, “I can see her walking through that door. Can’t you?”
I turned my head and I did. I saw a mirage of her as she is today, long-limbed and laughing. I knew that a rare bird was about to land.
The labor process was early and enthusiastic, but the delivery slow. It was as if she was comfortable with the way things were, but it was time to get the show on the road. For her a big pause, a reluctance to change….and then, she was all in. That propensity was established and since then she has made some of the most dramatic changes one can make in life.
As a little bit, she was sharp angles and spunk. Up early every morning, chatty with a preference for early walks outside with D. Easy to laugh and often shy, but once committed, devoted like no other….to a cause, to a principle, to a sister, to Ben, to Elodie, Dalton and Pepper and many other someones who I can see raising their hands.
In forty spins of the calendar, her father and I have held our breaths for the inevitable challenges but then gained faith with her recovery which was immediate and expert – not an ability that is taught – just a tenacity of spirit that was there before we met her.
She had the singular habit of walking it out by talking scenarios out loud to the air around our 1 acre lot after school. Her imagination is her best asset. Many have benefitted.
Kahlil Gibran cautioned: “Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughter of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”
This has proved truer than I knew when I snuggled her as our guest into the back seat of a blue Toyota Corona for the journey to 1733 Myrtle Street. Our springer spaniel Jackson peeked through the backyard fence as we pulled into the driveway. My friend Peggy documented our timid virgin steps into the house of parenthood. And we were off.
Naturally there were endless things to show her and God knows relentless and daunting ideals to haunt us in the process, but we should never have been in doubt. Her spirit has the power of a self-directed soul.
She is May’s first flower, an effervescent bloomer, and we are her grateful students.