And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news (which I nearly forgot!).
This past Saturday, two momentous things happened. One, my daughter Olivia interviewed for and landed her first job. And two, my granddaughter. Maya Mae, posed for her fifth birthday portrait.
In both cases, I saw two little girls, years apart from each other, growing up fast. And while I missed the little ones they used to be, I love who they are and who they’re becoming.
My daughter is 17 years old. When she was three, we were told she was autistic and that she might never speak. A few days before she was hired for this job, she sat in my office and had a phone interview. Every answer was calmly and professionally given. She was polite. She was adult. She was adult! And then she hung up the phone and squealed. Okay, maybe not so adult.
On the way home from her interview, I asked how it went. She said fine. I asked if she got the job. “Well,” she said, “they said they’re going to be calling me tomorrow or the next day to set up orientation.”
“Olivia!” I said. “That means you got the job!”
“I did?” She sat up straighter. Her shoulders went back. “I did?” She beamed.
The silent girl has become a confident, well-spoken, thoughtful and compassionate adult. Who talks constantly.
Then it was time for Maya Mae’s portrait. She and her father, my son, showed up at the condo and we added Olivia to our little group and off we went to the portrait studio.
Which was running very, very late.
Maya just turned five. Five-year olds are not patient. Many five-year olds and under were shrieking in the waiting room. But Maya, after we changed her into her beautiful new dress, spent most of her time practicing her curtsey and talking to Grumpy Cat, her best friend. When her picture time finally came, almost an hour late, she graciously walked into the room and did everything the photographer told her to. She jumped. She said, “Turkey.” She said, “Hot dog.” She stood and looked coyly over her shoulder, she stretched out on her belly, she sat on stools and boxes and a turned-over bucket. And through it all, she spoke calmly, confidently, and politely.
There was only one momentary bobble. There was a prop, a gigantic crown, used typically for babies and toddlers to pose within its circle. Maya saw it and lit up, but she was too big to sit inside it.
“What do you want to do with it, Maya?” the photographer asked.
Maya grasped the giant crown in her two hands and hefted it over her head like a sumo wrestler in a dainty flowered dress.
This girl, I thought, will not be satisfied with any crown. This girl will hold up the entire world.
The photographer snapped and snapped. Maya’s arms sunk, but then she thrust the crown up again. And she smiled and smiled.
It was when she set the crown down that the bobble happened. I saw it first, her little mouth turning down. Her eyes filled, but she did not cry. “What, Maya?” I said. “What’s wrong?”
She rubbed her arms. “It was heavy.”
But she wanted that crown. She wanted that photo. And even though it hurt, she held it up and she smiled.
That determination? That insistence on reaching a goal? Oh, she’s going to do well.
Kind of like the silent girl who was told she would never speak, but who now never stops speaking, has a job, plays the violin, is an accomplished artist and writer, maintains a 4.0 GPA, and plans to go on to college to be an art therapist and a writer.
And now for a moment of sheer obnoxiousness. Ready?
Yes, I know who they take after.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.