Thursday, September 23, 2010
Chicken is sixteen years old tomorrow.
She is tough, smart, independent, vulnerable, and beautiful.
When she was born, I walked into the hospital nearly eight centimeters dilated--and she shot across the stainless steel table like a watermelon seed being squished across the counter. This is only notable because we were uncertain as to her gender--we were on welfare at the time, and had no ultrasounds, and all we had was a hunch that this one might be different than the last one.
Mate had to stand on tiptoes and speculate over the head of three cooing nurses. "I do believe it's a girl!"
She's been indifferent to her girlhood ever since.
One of the oldest pictures we have of Chicken (it pre-dates digital pix) is a picture of her, dressed in her brother's hooded T-shirt and her brother's old shorts, trying on mother's glasses and looking soberly into the camera.
Unlike her little sister, we are unlikely to find a picture of Chicken, wearing her bestest bestest, decked out in make-up, and grinning winningly into the camera.
And unlike her formal big brother, we might very often hear her summarize history in a succinct, pithy statement that most folks on FOX News would not understand. (i.e. Stalin was a douchebag.)
When she was six years old, I went back to school to get my Master's degree. I had very clear memories of my father in school when I was that age, and I was pretty sure I was done growing by then since my mother wasn't doing anything about raising me, and I assumed that Chicken and Big T would be just fine without me.
Chicken was relentlessly affectionate, and terrifyingly hurt by my absence. I had an epiphany. To most people, it would seem like common sense, but when I was seven, I woke up, got dressed, fed the animals, made my lunch and got to school, very often without seeing another person until I met someone as I walked. Big T was one thing--he needed help because he was still not very vocal, but Chicken? Chicken needed me? I was floored--it had never occurred to me that I would be needed as a mother when my children were perfectly able to raid the refrigerator and wipe their bottoms without my help.
And now, when she is terrifyingly competent, and very nearly grown, I am not ready for my shotgun buddy (she rides shotgun on the way home) and my friend and confidante to be ready to bail on me. I stayed here and stayed 'mom' for her, right?
But that was different. That was my job.
Her job is to grow up to be the extraordinary person I see her turning into with every day.
Thanks, Chicken. You're buckets and buckets of deep-fried, special-spice, extra-crispy awesome.
But you're still growing up too goddamned fast.