Tuesday, August 31, 2010

thirteen.

Listening To: Love Song for a Savior by Jars of Clay
Line Obsession: "I wandered the city, got lost, found myself again." - from My Life in France by Julia Child


Dear Erin,

It is not so uncommon that people ask me to share my favorite quote. I think they assume, because I sometimes get all sassy and confident and refer to myself as a *gulp* *whispers* writer, that I'm going to unleash all manner of literary beauty upon them. Usually, I just go nerd and quote something from The Chronicles of Narnia. Or Goonies. But really, in all honesty, my most favorite quote was spoken by your mom. And that quote is:

"You're going to be an aunt."

Your mom said these words to me in a very dramatic, riddle-ly way because she wanted to see the look on my face when I put the clues together and realized you were on the way. I'm fairly certain I screamed (in a good way). That night, before I had any notion of how cool you would be, I started praying for you. And the next day, I started calling everybody I knew (all five of them) so I could gush about you. And when I say "called," I mean that I actually punched the buttons on the clear plastic light-up phone that was plugged into the wall in my room. (Land lines, historians call them. We didn't have cell phones or text messages back in ye olde 90's.)

And then came the waiting.

You know how you feel every fall when you see the first Christmas commercial come on TV? Or when you get the first Christmas catalog in the mail? Or when you smell that first evergreen-minty snap of cold in the air and know Christmas is so close? That's what waiting for you felt like. Waiting for you was like waiting for Christmas. The months we waited for you to get here seemed to take for-ev-er but, fortunately, we got to break up all the waiting with moments of pure awesome.

I heard your rock-song heartbeat.

I sat in front of the the TV in your parents' living room, watching your ultrasound video, pretending I could see arms and legs and stuff. I couldn't, not really, but I remember thinking you looked like a wonderful little star-chart, like this tiny little galaxy, all bright and blinky. I knew you were meant to shine even then.

We waited, and waited, and waited.

Summer elbowed its way into spring, humid and starry and heavy with anticipation.

We found out you were a girl. We bought pink stuff. The Rogue Accountant took cash bets from various friends and family members on what day you would be born. (He was an industrious kid, even back in middle school.)

We went to baby showers where people gave you ... more pink stuff. I wrote you a lullaby and framed it (which, I realize, was kind of corny but you need to remember I was a very quirky 16 year old).

We decorated your nursery with stuffed animals, storybooks, snuggly blankets, and some contraption called a "Diaper Genie" that most definitely did not contain a genie. Your mom hung a corny (framed!) (but sweet) lullaby over your crib.

Your mom grabbed my hand and held it against her tummy so I could feel you kick.

And then she told me she was going to name you Erin, after me (because my middle name is Erin), and even though I said, "Yay!!" and cried and stuff ... inside I was thinking ... oh no.

Don't misunderstand: the fact that she named you after me was the sweetest thing ever. The problem with that scenario, in my mind, was that I knew I was a hopeless dork. I liked to read fantasy novels, write poems, and watch Star Wars. My wardrobe mostly consisted of jeans and plaid shirts. My favorite moments of the week were, 1.) hanging out with my grandparents, 2.) hanging out with my best friends on Friday nights (which, very often, consisted of playing ping-pong), and 3.) teaching Sunday School. There was not a cool bone in my body. And I never wanted you to feel like the hopeless dork I knew myself to be. I wanted you to be cool and popular because, back then, I assumed cool and popular girls probably weren't as insecure as I was. (In retrospect, I think insecurity is just part of being a girl. Actually, I think it's part of being human.)

But here is the sweet thing about your mom that you have probably discovered already: she always sees the good in people, the really good. She likes quirky. I considered myself weird and shy and introverted. But your mom thought I was sweet and funny and artsy. Even though your mom was/is one of those gorgeous, popular girls, she happens to love people who aren't afraid to be different. She's genuine and she loves genuine people. (Have I mentioned that you have a seriously cool mom?)

Summer ebbed on, and on. And we kept waiting.

I assumed the day you were born would be like that episode of The Cosby Show where the oldest daughter has twins. (Do you even know what The Cosby Show is? Remind me to introduce you to the Cosby's next time you're here.) I thought we would all hang out in the waiting room until your dad burst through the doors and yelled, "She's here!" (Which is kind of funny since we both know your dad is much more of an Eeyore personality than a Tigger.) And then I assumed we would all see you, and squeal, and cry, etc.

The reality was this: I got home from a football game and my mom (your grandmother) said, "Your sister is in labor ... but labor takes a long time so we'll just go to the hospital in the morning."

I couldn't sleep that night. I picked out my hawt clothes for the next day (jeans and a UT t-shirt) and tossed them in a pile beside my dirty clothes just so I could expedite the trip to see you the next morning. But when I woke up, you had already arrived. Even then you preferred to work at your own pace, thank you very much.

When we finally got to the hospital, there was no massive freak out, no jumping up and down. It was a quieter kind of experience - a very sweet, sacred kind of quiet. I remember standing in front of a glass window, looking into the nursery, watching you, thinking you looked so weird in the most wonderful kind of way. I could not process you. You totally rattled my brain. It felt like time hooked its arm around my shoulder and kept me real still; still enough to latch onto that moment and realize just how special it was.

As you are probably aware, babies freak me out like few other creatures in existence. They make me nervous because they are fragile. Because they can't tell me what they want. Because, when you hold babies, people say stuff like, "Support the head." Like, how is that phrase not terrifying? Support the head?

*shivers*

I'm getting a nice album going now, courtesy of friends who've had babies who ask me to hold their babies - because they delight in torture - and in every pic, I kid you not, I look like I'm watching a horror movie. Or like I just drank a pickle-juice milkshake. Those pics are real keepers.

But when I held you for the first time, I didn't freak out. I thought you were the coolest person I'd ever met. I thought about how sweet it was of God to let me be a little bitty part of your life. And I said a little prayer that you would never, ever, be as insecure as the girl whose name you were about to make your own.

And boy, did you make that name your own.

Here, most awesome of the Erin's, are 13 Reasons Why You Rock:

#1: Because you love to love people. You love hanging out with your fam and your friends. You love your little brother even when he torments you. (I grew up in the same house as The Rogue Accountant. Thus, I have a theory about the torment: in some strange way, I think it is how little brothers show love. Maybe.)

#2: You're chill and easy going until you see somebody getting picked on, and then you march in to save the day. You're not cool with bullies.

#3: You're unbelievably gorgeous but you're not even a little bit cocky about it.

#4: You are sarcastic to a fault ... which will most likely cause some sparks as you meander through these teen years. But I heart your sense of humor!

#5: You keep me grounded. Exhibit A: When you were little, I took you to Wal-Mart so we could buy stuff to make cupcakes (health food!). Just after we walked through the double doors, a very handsome guy smiled at me, and nodded, and the nod - I need to explain the nod to you. "The nod" is kind of a big deal. The nod is always good. I smiled back at him, very sweetly. And at that exact moment that I actually got up the nerve to smile at him, you pointed to a sign (you'd just learned to read) and you screamed, "What's a panty liner?" Awesome.

Exhibit B: On your last trip here, you put your hand on my shoulder in Target and said, calmly: "Step away from the dog clothes."

I said, "But the shirt says ... *squeals* 'Got Biscuit!' I just want to take a picture of her in it! I won't actually put it on her often. At least not, like, every day." And you said, "Step away from the dog clothes."

#6: You think Jesus is the coolest. And you already understand what He meant when He said to love other people without being judgy or mean. You are proud of what you believe in and I dig that about you.

#7: You pick particularly funky colors for the rubber bands in your braces.

#8: You are smart. And you aren't afraid to be smart. It always makes me sad when girls feel like they have to act stupid to get attention. Not only do you have brains, but you have imagination. You aren't afraid to dream big dreams. (You should never, ever be afraid to dream big dreams.)

#9: You know how to be girly and tough at the same time.

#10: You know, and like to discuss, specific details about each Harry Potter book and you can name every single part they left out of the movies. The fact that we had a Harry Potter marathon when you came to visit me this summer? Too. Awesome. You're definitely a Gryffindor.

#11: Your wit is a match for The Rogue Accountant. Nobody else in this family can match his sharpness, but you don't fear him. You are his adversary. I salute you.

#12: You aren't afraid to try new things. New sports. New activities. New music. New food - really crazy kinds of food most people your age wouldn't try.

#13: You aren't afraid to dork out. You've already stumbled onto a truth I didn't figure out for way too long: that it is very cool just to love what you love. You don't apologize for the books you read, the activities you participate in, or the things you believe. You are quite comfortable in your own skin and you seem to already realize that, if people don't like you, it's their loss. (Although it's nutty to imagine anybody not being crazy about you.)

This weekend, while we celebrated your birthday at The Cheesecake Factory, I kept getting weirdly sentimental thinking about what your teen years might have in store. Your friendships will change and re-arrange. You'll start driving. You'll probably get your heart broken at least once (because boys can be total poopheads) (Also, they can be complete sweethearts but every girl falls for at least one poophead).

(FYI - When that inevitable heartbreak happens, do note that I will drive down to Georgia and give that twirp a piece of my mind.) (And I might only be 4'11", and own a fuzzy dog, and frequently wear pink shoes ... but he will fear me.)

You'll start thinking seriously about someday moments: where you want to go to college, where you want to live, who you want to be. Those big decisions might freak you out as they get closer.

But I have good news for you: thirteen years ago, you were born into one of the most awesome (and weirdest ... also loudest) families ever. No matter how much change comes swirling through your life, we'll be here cheering for you. You're the Erin we waited for, and prayed for, and absolutely adore. You remain the coolest person I know.

Here's to the teens. Sparkle and shine, sweet girl.

Love,
Nat

Erin collects seashells. There are hundreds of shell pieces washed up on the shore today, jagged as broken glass. The sea has handed us a mighty ransom for our company. I tell her just to pick the special ones and then watch her scrutinize the pile. Her tiny fingers lift one shell from the mix. I think it will be a sand dollar or one of those conch shells full of ocean echoes - something beautiful and unique. Instead, she picks up broken pieces, tiny shell fragments with splashy colors and interrupted swirls. "Why these?" I ask when she puts them in my hand. "They're special," she replies. "They're broken," I say. It comes out more like a question than a statement. "What makes a seashell special then?" she asks me. And it makes me wonder. What does make a seashell special? Is it the size or shape or color? Or the part that's missing? Or is it something else all together? "You do," I finally decide. "When you love something, you make it special." "Cool," she says. "I like the broken ones." So we take the broken ones back inside. Erin cleans each piece, sets it in a perfect row with the rest, and then stands back to marvel at her handy work. And I marvel too, because suddenly a string of broken seashells looks more like a diamond necklace some mermaid flung toward us from the depths of the sea."
- from Paperdoll, p. 53

11 comments:

  1. Wow, you're awesome Aunt Natalie. :) What a tribute! And Happy Birthday to Erin!

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  2. That's such a fun letter; i'm sure Erin will love it! And she sounds like an amazing girl, i wish i could meet her! :)

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  3. Happy Birthday Erin! I wish I oculd meet you. You sound a lot like your aunt, which even though she worried about it, we both know it's is a good thing.
    I just finished Paperdoll, Natalie. It was amazing. Great post. What you mean there are people that don't quote the goonies? It really made me think about my little niece. And #5 made me laugh SO hard.
    LF

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  4. Happy birthday, Erin! What a total blessing your aunt gave you! LOVED "What's a panty liner?" Made me laugh.

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  5. Erin sounds like such an awesome person. :) Hope she has a great birthday!

    ~Kristin

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  6. I think you just clinched Favoritest Aunt Ever. Erin is a lucky niece!

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  7. Tell Erin I said Happy Birthday! Also, have her read the Hunger Games. I think she'd like those books. :) If she hasn't already. Have you read MJ? I was in awe of it. I loved it. :)

    You are an awesome aunt. Erin is very lucky to have such a wonderful, caring, and hilarious aunt. I cannot wait to have nieces, but ya know how the twin thing goes....it'll be a while. :)

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  8. Awww how special!!!!!!! Wish you were my aunt.. though Ido have some pretty awesome ones LOL :)

    Tell Erin happy birthday!!!

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  9. What a lucky niece.
    This made me think of my little sis (who'll be crossing into her teenage years in just a few more years...and will be about how old I was when she was born) and how crazy that love can be. Was hard to read without falling apart a little!
    Thanks for sharing.

    -k

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  10. Awwww...love it! :)

    Happy birthday, Erin!!! And happy becoming an aunt for the first time day, Nat!!!

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  11. This is awesome! Happy birthday, Erin.

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