We moved into our home in the fall of 2007. Prior to that, we spent a little over a year living with Lynnette’s parents. A family of three lived next door to us. The family consisted of a father, mother, and a young girl. In the past not-quite eight years, I have spoken to father and mother sporadically, when we were both outside, or if there was a community matter worth talking about. I have never spoken to the girl. Perhaps we have waved at each other a few times, but that’s about it. I rarely see her.
Two weeks ago Madison and I were loading the Highlander with beach gear. As always, Madison only considered which items she’d like to have at her disposal rather than her parents’ ability to carry all of them. A girl came walking around the corner. She had makeup on, a top which bared a little of her mid-section, and a book bag. She was with friends roughly her age. I thought she looked familiar, but was pretty certain she was not a Damien student. I didn’t recognize any of her friends. The three of young girls passed our driveway, then took a sharp right into our neighbor’s home. “No way,” I whispered to myself. It was the girl who was Madison’s age once upon a time.
It makes sense. The girl was roughly Madison’s age when we moved in. But now she’s probably a 9th grader or so. I understand it, but it’s hard for me to accept it.
Madison is 7 today, and I know time is passing. She can bathe herself now. She can easily scoop up Abby in her arms and sing to her and dance with her. The demolition of a 4-piece Chicken McNugget Happy Meal and all its components is not longer a question, but a simple formality. I know all of this. But she’s still just Mad.
Two nights ago, I played two softball games back-to-back and didn’t get home until 9:30. When I finally got into bed Lynnette told me that Mad had a meltdown. She didn’t want to go to sleep. Lynnette had video of the event. In it, I saw a red, wet eyed Madison answering Lynnette’s questions.
“Do you want all-you-can-eat sushi on your birthday?” “No, I just want pizza like regular.”
“Why are you crying?” “Because my mom keeps telling me the wrong things!” It killed me that she went third person on Lynnette instead of saying “you”. She was crying, but she didn’t destroy the integrity of the interview process.
Finally, Madison did the most Madison thing possible. She said something absurd with such earnestness that the chasm between the two can only be hilarious. “I’m only dreaming of two things,” she said, alluding to her birthday wishes. “A hippity-hop and a note on my lunch that says I can stay up until 8:45.” I couldn’t stop laughing. This is my daughter.
Well, happy birthday, Madison. You remain the greatest gift I have ever received. I know that someday you will be the girl wearing too much makeup for my taste and clothing too revealing for me to stomach, but then and always, you will be my little girl. I’ll see what I can do about that hippity hop which I am certain to trip over at some point in the next month. But 8:45 is a tall, tall order.
I love you so.