My first-born child turned forty this spring. Was it truly 40 years ago that I sat in a stream of March sunlight in the living room awaiting her birth?
The thrill of holding my daughter for the first time must be timeless since I still recall studying her fuzzy reddish-blonde hair, her full lips so much like her daddy’s, her baby smell, her soft skin, and yes, her insistent cries.
I also recall breaking down and sobbing when the nurse told me I wouldn’t be able to take her home for three days. She was jaundiced and back in 1979, that meant time under the billyrubin lamps. It turned out that my daughter also craved ultraviolet rays. Once I brought her home, I often sat with her in the living room, letting the afternoon sunbeams stream down on our faces.
Our mutual craving for sunlight became just the first of our many mother/daughter similarities. She and I are connected in uncanny ways. We can shop at different stores in the mall, yet find each other at just the right time. She can also read my moods and know what I’m thinking.
Today, on this milestone birthday, I’m thinking about the highlights of her life. As a preschooler, she attended a friend’s birthday party. Afterward, without my knowledge, she scooped up a dead shrew she’d found in the grass. She set it in her party bag along with the candy. I kept hearing the bag crinkling and warned her about eating too much candy before dinner. When I discovered what truly held her interest, I stared at her. Weren’t little girls supposed to be afraid of things like mice?
Time passed. She got into horseback riding and competed in cross country jumping along with speed events such as barrel and pole racing. I have fond memories of trail riding together, she and I trotting or cantering along, the sunlight on our faces.
Time kept passing and she committed to the Peace Corps. When she walked away from her dad and me, toward the plane that would take her to Gambia, an undeveloped country, I marveled at her courage. She set up a community library and raised a vegetable garden under the African sun.
She returned home two years later and committed to hiking the northern half of the Appalachian Trail with a friend. When the friend quit a few days into the trek, my daughter continued on alone. She hiked over 600 miles in the rain and sunshine.
More time passed and as the lyrics in Fiddler on the Roof predict, “Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers, Blossoming even as we gaze.” She pursued her career as a high school teacher and cultivated her passion for organic farming. She found the mate of her dreams and now has two boys who love to play outside.
When I visit, my daughter, her children, and I eagerly head outdoors where the sunlight can warm our faces.