And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.
My daughter’s birthday was last Tuesday and a loving uncle sent her a gift card for the store Forever 21. When a girl turns 17 and someone sends her a gift card, do you know what happens? The gift card follows her around on secret little feet and shrieks, “Use me use me use me use me!” until she can’t stand it anymore and so she convinces her mother that she has to go right now right now right now right now.
So we went.
When you are fifty-seven years old and your nerves have been a bit shot lately due to happenings in your life and you’ve always been sensitive to noise and to crowds and you like things orderly and neat, stores like Forever 21 are a nightmare. Narrow aisles. Clothes not just hung, but heaped spilling from piles on tables and racks and shelves and floors. Loud relentless music. Teenage girls and young women in high-pitched staccato conversation punctuated with shrieking laughter, barreling through the store with vaulting strides. Noise, noise, noise. People, people, people. Stuff, stuff, stuff.
But I love my daughter, so I took a deep breath and dove in.
And she loved EVERYTHING.
“Ohmygod! This is so poofy! And so soft! And ohmygod, I LOVE these! And look, the Care Bears! Ohmygod! Mario! Ohmygodohmygod, puffy camo! Oh, WOW! Rainbows!”
All at three thousand miles per hour with nary a breath in between sentences. Everything she loved got thrown over my extended arms. I soon became one of the messy racks.
Eventually, I followed her voice to the fitting rooms. The nice woman there put us in the furthest back room, a large room, with a great bench and faux stone wallpaper. As Livvy tried on clothes, she jabbered nonstop, and I got a few words in edgewise. I noticed her belt, bought for her when she was around 12, was getting more than a little frayed. “A new belt?” I asked.
I’d recently been in Claire’s, looking for jewelry for this child for her birthday (she got a necklace that is an iridescent skeleton of a mermaid – really) and noticed that there were displays of suspenders, thus announcing their return to the fashion scene. So I said, “Would you like suspenders?” She gasped, I thought in a positive way. “You’d have to wear your shirts tucked in though.”
“Ohmygod, NO!” she shrieked. “I don’t want to be a farmer! I’d be all, like, farmer’s market and ‘Hey, you wanna buy my potatoes?’”
And then she was gone in a gale of giggles. No, not giggles. Not for this kid. Guffaws. Howling happy totally in the here and now belly laughs at her very own self, at her own humor, and at the audacity of a mother suggesting suspenders.
Since she was a baby, Olivia’s laugh has been joyfully infectious. Whenever she laughed, people around her joined in. And so did I. Hearing her laugh today, seeing her laugh personified, her arms hugging herself in a fuzzy rainbow sweater, her head tossed back, in full roar, she shot me through with the joy she’s given me since she was born.
So I joined in.
When Olivia was around three, one of the therapists in the Birth To Three program said, “Even though she’s not speaking, there’s no doubt what Olivia is feeling. She IS her emotion. She embodies it.”
Today, she embodied joy and she threw it at me, drowning out the din of the store and the chaos of the last couple weeks.
Smart move. Because of course she got more than what her gift card covered.
So worth it.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.