Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Happy Twenty-First Birthday, Derek!

Random reflections on the eve before your twenty-first birthday.

As a new momma, I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect child.  Almost from the day we brought you home, you slept through the night.  I remember the first night, when you woke up crying and I picked you up and nursed you back to sleep, your father looked at me through his sleep deprived eyes and asked me, “How do you know how to do that?” I didn’t know, it just happened.  It’s something natural and unexplainable.  

With your big eyes and happy smile, people were naturally drawn to you.  At that time, we lived in Okinawa, Japan, and one night a Japanese teenager was going door-to-door asking people to sign a petition for peace.  She was using broken English, trying to tell me what she was doing when she caught sight of you and screamed something in Japanese.  It was so funny!  She reached out to hold you (I was WAY too trusting back then) and she kept saying “Big eyes! Big eyes!”  The same thing happened when we took Nana to the the airport for her flight back to the States.  We were literally mobbed by Japanese locals who were so fascinated by you and your big eyes. I didn’t let them take you, but they Ah’d and Ooh’d at you, and talked to me in Japanese – me nodding my head excitedly as if I understood what they were saying.

 When I brought you back home to the States, you were an angel during that flight.  I heard so many children crying, but not my 6 week old infant. You slept for most of that 20 hour flight, and when you were awake, you cooed and smiled. I believe that was just a glimpse into the person you were going to become.

I was stationed at Camp Lejeune, NC and your papa was still in Okinawa.  As luck would have it, your “aunt” Tisha was living there with her husband.  I suddenly found myself blessed with a wonderful babysitter for you – money couldn’t buy that!  She didn’t have a crib, but you were completely content sleeping in a laundry basket or open drawer.  One of my favorite “stories” from this time, came from the daycare you attended a couple days each week.  You were sitting in the middle of the room with a bucket over your head, roaring.  Each time the teacher would call you, you would giggle and roar again.  In your toddler mind, you were invisible to them and you thought they believed you were a lion.

Flash forward to Frederick, Md where we lived in a townhouse neighborhood.  You were only three years old.  I was sitting on our front “stoop” and I heard you start screaming.  I ran over to where you were and you were sobbing about another boy who was going killed a “daddy long-leg”.  Relieved that you weren’t hurt and moved by your caring, I carried you home and try to explain that not everyone thought all creatures should share the earth with us.  A couple of years later, as we were driving over a mountain, you noticed a section of cleared land.  You asked why the trees were "knocked down".  When I told you the reason was to make room for new houses, you cried out "Where are the owls going to live?", seriously upset by this.

When you became a big brother, you were the best big brother ever!  You held Emma’s hand, helped her put her shoes one, hugged her, helped me chase her when she would take off running (which was often!)  Other parents used to compliment me on how kind you were and how loving you were to your sister.  Sometimes I feel guilty that we had to focus so much on Emma with her ear infections and anxiety/adhd meltdowns, but you always took everything in stride.

You made parenting easy.  Really!  You were involved in Key Club, summer, fall, and spring baseball, AP classes, Honors classes, National Honor Society, marching band, Jazz band, symphonic band, and you were even in a Ska band your senior year of high school, and you made it look easy. I miss those days. 

Here you are, about to turn twenty-one and I just can’t believe how quickly the time has flown by.   

Twenty-one years ago, in a Naval Hospital on Okinawa, Japan, I held a tiny, precious baby in my arms.  I didn’t think about the future, I didn’t think about what job you were going to do or what your major in college was going to be.  My only thought was about how much I loved you, and that hasn’t changed.  I love you absolutely and completely unconditionally. 

Happy Birthday!

So talented, you made your own
 Pacman costume!
Not ashamed of your… 
soft side