I have no idea what the hell happened. You must be a prodigy because just yesterday afternoon I brought you home from the hospital and last night you graduated eighth grade. You were just wearing a diaper, and your umbilical cord was still drying … and last night I watched you sing, with professional precision, “La Preghiera” to a packed house and standing O. This has to be something for Ripley’s because you are a freak of nature … newborns are helpless and wrinkly, needy and seven pounds. I went to swaddle you last night and you were laying there in a white dress with a smokey eye and nude lip. It was weird, and I asked where the newborn was that I just brought home, and you said, “Mom, there is no newborn.” WHAT???? Who stole my baby? “Mom, that was 14 years ago.”
14 years ago. Was it really 14 years ago? Am I 14 years older? Is that suckling baby really wearing 4” Steve Madden diamond cut heels? What has transpired in fourteen years cannot be measured by time. 14 years is 168 months, 14 Christmases, 14 Easters, 14 birthdays, 14 trips to Disneyworld, 10 to Italy, but that seems so irrelevant compared to the emotion of observing, educating and nurturing a baby into pre adulthood.
I remember watching Valentina fly down the hallway in her Tinkerbell nightgown … it waved behind her like an unfurled flag on the flagpole at a naval base, and it followed her down the hall until she made a screeching left turn into her room. It was in that room that her dreams of playing pretend, singing, acting were born, and her tiny brain jammed with the flurry of imagination, was without responsibility or boundary. She has brought her childhood dream of being on the stage with her though her pre-k years until today, always working, sometimes crying, sometimes freaking about her perfection, but always nurturing and loving with endless passion, the gift the Lord gave her.
Valentina had the goods academically, but I realized last night, as I watched her accept the St. Cecilia award for musical excellence that what God has instilled in us, whether we asked for it or not, is what we must cultivate, what we must love, for it is the key to our success, what drives us, what sets us apart from others. No one has the same talent, degree of talent or capability. It is recognizing what your child beholds that is the opening act, the overture, for the rest of their lives.
I realize, too, that eighth grade is not high school, or college, but it is the beginning of a new era, which will culminate in a new adult. This fleeting moment of 14 years, because it is just that, fleeting, a blip on life’s vital monitor that on December 23, 2002, I thought would last forever, was not mine to keep with me. It was all borrowed time. But, as I watched the seed I planted start to bloom with glorious petals, I am happy, proud, overjoyed at the gift I was given, the time only appropriated to me by God’s glorious will, and now hers to take wherever she wants.
When she came running to me last night in Church after the caps had turned their tassels and been thrown into the air, and those cheap crepey gowns were now wrinkled and uncared for, asking me if she could have a few friends over, (A few was like 15), I knew her childish innocence hadn’t evaporated just yet. I could see once again, the little girl in the Tinkerbell nightgown who just wanted to play pretend with her friends. I guess the Tinkerbell nightgown will save me on her wedding day.
Congratulations, my Valentina. Thank you for every moment of every day since December 23, 2002. Your dreams, your loves, are all tangible. Make them your success. I love you.