Monday, January 12, 2015

Eleven

“And the child, Francie Nolan, was of all the Rommelys and all the Nolans. She had the violent weaknesses and passion for beauty of the shanty Nolans. She was a mosaic of her grandmother Rommely’s mysticism, her tale-telling, her great belief in everything and her compassion for the weak ones. She had a lot of her grandfather Rommely’s cruel will. She had some of her Aunt Evy’s talent for mimicking, some of Ruthie Nolan’s possessiveness. She had Aunt Sissy’s love for life and her love for children. She had Johnny’s sentimentality without his good looks. She had all of Katie’s soft ways and only half of the invisible steel of Katie. She was made up of all of these good and these bad things. She was made up of more, too. She was the books she read in the library. She was the flower in the brown bowl. Part of her life was made from the tree growing rankly in the yard. She was the bitter quarrels she had with her brother whom she loved dearly. She was Katie’s secret, despairing weeping. She was the shame of her father staggering home drunk. She was all of these things and of something more that did not come from the Rommelys nor the Nolans, the reading, the observing, the living from day to day. It was something that had been born into her and her only—the something different from anyone else in the two families. It was what God or whatever is His equivalent puts into each soul that is given life—the one different thing such as that which makes no two fingerprints on the face of the earth alike.” 
Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

At an early age, my daughter began saying she was an Atheist. I once remarked to my husband that although she might think this was true, she wouldn't really know the meaning of the word until her eleventh birthday came and went with no letter from Hogwarts. Even my husband, a militant, humorless Atheist, had to admit it would be a sad day.

Tomorrow, that sad day will come. She'll be eleven. Eleven like Harry Potter. Eleven like Francie Nolan. After 70 hours of labor, she was born with a sweet smile on her face. The nurses said she looked like Snow White. I'd once heard of a cult in which someone would attend the birth and, when each child was born, state the essence of each child - strong, kind, powerful, whatever. I didn't want to join a cult, but thought it sounded like a nice thing to have at a birth. But when she was born, I didn't need it. I looked at her and thought, "curious and good natured."

I didn't stop smiling for a year. We took walks, we stared into each other's eyes, we screamed into each other's mouths just to hear the weird echo it made. I was 27, but remember myself like a wide-eyed teen mother, growing up with her child.

When her brother was born, she instructed me over the phone not to step on him. She loved princesses, Egyptology, reading, writing, cooking, sewing, science fiction and fantasy. She's been an Atheist, a Buddhist, an Agnostic, a Christian and a Unitarian Universalist.

When I was pregnant, I kept hearing how awful it was to have a newborn. My life was practically over, they said, and I believed them, approaching her due date like my execution date. She turned out to be a beautiful, happy angel, and I've been waiting for the other shoe to drop ever since. So far, it never has. Thank you so much for being exactly the right daughter for me, my sweet girl.

She tells me she hasn't given up on the letter summoning her to wizarding school. While she acknowledges it won't be Hogwarts, she points out that Hogwarts in England. She feels it's entirely possible that in America, wizarding school starts a little later. Maybe we have a little more time.

2 comments:

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    1. So cliche' to talk about how fast it all goes, but it goes so. fast.

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