“I don’t believe in God. I think Jesus was just a man, but with you in my life I feel part of some heavenly plan.You’ve shown me that there is faith without fear or regret. You are a love as close to heaven as I’ll get.”
Seventeen on the seventeenth. Every year, I wish you had been born on your due date, June 3rd, when the end of the semester was over and not right in the middle of trying to hang our annual art show. Now that I know you so well, I am convinced that you did it on purpose, so that your golden birthday would fall at the height of your high school years and during prom week. A week full of flutter and activity and attention galore. Art show included. Look at me, notice me … the mantra of the middle child.
Happy birthday, golden girl. Last night we went to watch the theater benefit at school and Simon sang The Seraph, which moved me to tears. Actually, I was already in tears because Hazel sang Rainbow Connection, and that just gets me every damn time. I held your hand the whole show and was feeling really tired and also really grateful that we don’t have one of those mother daughter relationships where there is constant bickering (even though there was that one time this week where I insisted you wear a bra). You let me hold you hand. You always say, “I like your hands, Mom. They tell stories.”
Your school year hasn’t been the one you hoped for or planned on. In January you started to sleep. Sleep and sleep and sleep, so I thought maybe you had mono. Then you started acting kind of funny, foggy, forgetful. Your hands swelled and turned blue, your legs went numb. ER visits and blood draws, tilt tests, sweat tests, and many missed days of school resulted in a diagnoses of Dysautonomia, but not yet fully blown POTS. That story is longer and more complex than can be summed up in a paragraph, and now I watch you take six different medications each morning and I wonder if you should be or if maybe doctors are still wrong. I wonder if dysautonomia stands for “we don’t fucking know.” Meds or no meds, the heat at school has been giving you horrible migraines, so last night at 2AM, you crawled in with me and we debated ER or no ER and dad covered you with ice and I rubbed your head until my alarm rang at six.
So I didn’t really want to make birthday pies. I haven’t slept. School has been super hard, super “May,” but the thing about being at school is that I listen to the stories other kids tell and I realize how many shitty mothers there are and I don’t want to be shitty. I want real banana cream pies with my great grandma Connell’s homemade custard recipe. I want to set the table and breathe you in and … stay golden. That is ideal, but in real life, I dropped the pie on the floor. Then I went to peel the bananas for pie #2 and someone had basically sat on them and they were flat and black. Both Dad and Luke offered to run to the store to buy more bananas while the third crust baked, but I basically told them to suck it. When I arrived at the store myself, there were piles upon piles of the greenest, hardest bananas you have ever seen:
I texted a picture of them to Dad, along with the word, “Seriously.” I am pretty sure that was an angel joke because on my way out, there were three lonely ripe bananas in a basket by the register, exactly the number I needed. They were right next to golden birthday candles, so apparently there is an angel that thinks I have a soul to keep.
So sixteen ended up being sicks-teen and we have both been feeling heavy and driven and overwhelmed, but then last week, I heard you singing. You haven’t sang for real in so long, that hearing your slow, deliberate words, just filled me with such relief … like you are still in there somewhere. https://www.instagram.com/p/BT7vZQmDaSn/?taken-by=lizmizzz You sound unsure yet, like you are just starting to emerge again, but there, right there before the word “sin,” I can hear you in there… it is golden.
We will ring in seventeen in a dirty, crowded, hot house, but there will be pie. There will be love. All of your brothers will be there, surrounded by laundry piles and unopened mail. We will laugh and drink beer and eat Korean beef tacos. There won’t be the puppy you asked for, nor the red corvette, but I will be there (and I ordered your Stan Smith’s in navy). You will have this birthday letter and I hope it is enough. I see you… scrambling to keep up with your vision of you, driven to meet that desire, and in that I recognize myself. “And when you lay your hallowed head warm against my chest, my divine, highest angel, mine… Somehow, I’ll be blessed.”
I love you, Lizzie, more and more. Stay gold.
Elizabeth, on the edge of 17.