|Lara at her sixth birthday party|
I got married two-months out of high school and had adolescent hopes for a bright future. All I wanted to be was a wife and mother. I had my first baby at nineteen and my second one at 21. The road got bumpy. The marriage went bad. Our lives fell apart. My husband left me when my boys were three and four years old. And though I didn't tell him ... I knew when he left that I was pregnant.
The night before Lara was born I had all the usual worries. Would the boys be okay with the sitter? Did I buy enough food? Would Danny cry at night while I was gone? What was plan B if I have complications with the surgery?
Then those logistical worries turned into that awful nighttime visitor...obsession over the pending doom I can't control. Everything turns to black in the middle of the night - especially our thoughts. Over and over I turned these worries ...
How could I manage on my own with three kids? I could barely make ends meet with two. How would I pay a babysitter while I was working? Who was going to keep an infant? What would I do when the apartment complex found out I had three children when the law requires three bedrooms for three kids? I'd already convinced them to rent me a one-bedroom and den, promising I'd keep my bed in the living room and give the children the bedroom. What if I got evicted? What if I couldn't work? What if I lost my kids?
My grandmother told me that she said the rosary every night so that she wouldn't worry. She gave her worries to the Blessed Mother, and saying the rosary took her mind off things. I followed her advice when my obsessive thoughts took over, and I usually fell asleep. But the night before I left to have my third child was a particularly black night. My sense of hopelessness was palpable.
But it all washed away at about 11 am that next morning when a nurse handed me the most beautiful little girl I'd ever seen.
Lara was perfect. While most newborns are trying to get their eyes open and adjust to this cold world, Lara Marie looked right at me with her giant eyes and stared. As those navy blue eyes held me, I remember wondering how I could be so lucky. That moment between us a few minutes after she was born was the beginning of a great partnership. It was then that Lara attached herself to me with her mind, body and soul, and we've never let each other go.
When I brought her home to her brothers and laid her in the crib (which was in the living room by my bed) we were a family - the four of us. Lara never cried. The boys loved her, and over the next few grueling years of trial, we held each other up. And I said a lot of rosaries.
|Lara on her first birthday|
Lara could sing before she could talk. She had this amazing ability to mimic words from songs. I carried Lara with me on Tupperware deliveries, and she'd sit in her car seat and sing along with the cassette tapes that I played in the car. She could sing the entire chorus of "All My Life's a Circle" by the Limeliters when she was two.... on pitch!
All my life's a circle
Sunrise and sundown
The moon rolls through the nighttime
As the daybreak comes around
All my life's a circle
But I can't tell you why
Seasons spinning round again
The years keep rolling by
|Lara on her 2nd birthday when I bought her a pony|
She never got in trouble at school, rarely misbehaved, and never got spanked. The biggest discipline problem I had with her was cussing - at THREE YEARS OLD. I did the soap-in-the-mouth thing more than once before she cut that crap out. I wonder where she got her potty mouth?
What a strange child to have never tested me, never be pulled by her peers to break the rules. I always thought it was because Lara couldn't stand to be separated from me - and that included emotionally. She couldn't take the tension.
So we were joined at the hip, Lara and me, and she's still on my mind - every day. She was a rare blessing at a time when I had no choice but to believe that things would work out okay even though the odds were against us. When having Lara should have been the last straw that finally broke my back, she became a surprising ray of hope. I couldn't stay discouraged because one smile from her instantly lifted my spirits.
She was my joy.
|Lara's 7th birthday|
And just as the song lyrics tell us, all my life is a circle. When I witnessed Lara give birth to her son Tristan, I watched the magic happen. That love at first sight we shared the first time I held her was resurrected. It circled around us. In an instant she was transformed, and the threads that bound Lara and me on July 25, 1984 reached right out and wove Tristan into that web of a mother's love.
Lara had become what I was. But she was still who she was. And somehow that made crazy sense.
If I were to cast my life's pain, disappointment and struggles into a bin and pile on top all of my mad worries for today and tomorrow, they would fade into a boring beige background when I held them up to the single blessing that is Lara - or any of my children. They are the vibrant colors of hope in my life. The moments with them are the stuff we live for.
|Lara with Rosie|
So Lara, today I remember our first meeting when I thought that you were the image of perfection. I remember you singing in the car and loving jewelry, make up, dresses and tea parties. I remember the first time you noticed the Lupines in our garden, and how you believed me when I said I'd come back as a bluebird after I died. I remember you crawling into my bed every single night of your life until you were twelve (I'm being generous here), and my asking you what we were going to tell your husband when we had to disclose that you always sleep with your Mama - and you saying, "Hopefully, I'll be over this by the time I get married."
|Tea at the Willard Hotel - Washington DC|
|Ninth birthday party - National Gallery of Art|
|First car - Subaru Impreza|
I remember how excited you were when you got your first car and how beautiful you were at on your wedding day. And then .... how fun our drive to California was when we camped in the Smokey Mountains, shared beignets at Café du Monde in New Orleans, walked through the historic homes in Natchez, Mississippi, and counted thousands of blue bonnets on a 700 mile Texas highway.
I remember how I thought it might kill me to be so overcome with love when they put Tristan in your arms for the first time.
Happy birthday, Lara Marie. Here's to another 30 years when hopefully we'll all be together - me 85, you 60 and little Rosie will be your age, and maybe she'll have a mother's story to tell by then. We'll mix all of our memories together in a fabulous cocktail of love and drink to life as it continues to circle around us.
You are a gift, my darling. You always have been. You've become such a beautiful woman inside and out...a good wife, a loving mother and one of my best friends.
I love you so.