You know she’s growing up when she hits the birthday when the gifts include only one toy … and a collection of clothing, books, gift cards, a beautiful photo collage of daughter through the years, and cash.
The celebration with friends has evolved as well, of course. Two close friends spent the night Friday night, creating a dance video and attaching dollar-store fake fingernails to each other. They shut down at some time after 1:30 a.m. We rose at 5:30 and rousted the girls a bit later. We decided ahead of time what we’d do that day. After nudging aside ideas such as a trip to Washington, DC, or Baltimore, we had settled on a day trip to Rehoboth Beach.
The weather was beautiful. We had a blast. The girls got wet in the surf — one fell in completely. We ate, we played. As the day surged past me, I watched the girls slip from childhood into adolescence. The giggles, the singing, the whispers, the comments about mutual acquaintances. Next stop: Boyville.
I worry a lot about the future. It’s no longer my future that concerns me. It’s her. There’s an ugly mood rumbling in certain quarters of our country, one that rationalizes racism. It’s disguised by people who hide behind American flag lapel pins and talk about protecting our borders.
But there is hope. I’ve watched our daughter as she’s viewed the world through color-blind eyes. Friends are friends because of who they are, not what they are. If they dislike someone, skin tone isn’t the reason.
Instead of worry, I pushed myself to take a more positive view. The three girls were inseparable from the moment they met Friday night until drop-off at home 24 hours later.
There was our daughter, fair-skinned, loud and fun-loving. There was one friend, dark-skinned, loud and fun-loving. There was the third friend, with the skin inherited from white and black parents, loud and fun-loving.
It was a wonderful trio, beautiful to watch.
Birthdays don’t come without their share of irony, though. One of our cats is gravely ill. We haven’t told our daughter just how grim the situation is. She was elated when I brought him home from the vet the night of her birthday — I had warned her he might need to spend the night at the vet. Surgery is scheduled — a Hail Mary. Hopeful but not optimistic.
She’s only 11. We can talk to her later this week. Still, I sense she suspects the cat is in tough shape. She’s shown a reserved maturity. Not many questions. Lots of cooing, fawning and petting.
Back to where I started: The one gift she received for her birthday was an accessory kit for her American Girl dolls. I knew what it was before she opened it. Irony? Coincidence?
It was the equipment and trappings of a veterinarian and her office. Our daughter opened it immediately.