Thursday, July 26, 2012

Seventeen Years Later

Yesterday, our oldest daughter passed her drivers' test.  Today, she turns 17.  Two days from now, we fly 3000 miles to look at colleges on the East Coast.  Does it always sneak up on you?  Is this the way it is for parents?

It seems like just yesterday I shook like a leaf as doctors pulled Claire from her mother's belly, an emergency C-section after 40 hours of hard labor.

It wasn't, of course.  It wasn't yesterday--and these 17 years have been challenging, harrowing, delightful and amazingly unscripted.  I learned to feed her, rock her to sleep, change the toxic diaper, sing the score from "Lion King."  Now I sit dumbfounded as she describes another day at UCSC, in a summer astronomy internship: black holes and galaxies and all the great folks she gets to hang with.  Did we really go from diapers to vectors in 17 years?  Is that even possible?

And, Saturday morning, we fly out to New York City, to begin a tour of colleges, a series of visits with faculty and grad students in astrophysics departments across the Northeast.  She's got a nose ring, now.  Last year, on her 16th birthday, her mother and I stepped into a local tattoo parlor--and watched as a calm, prepared, tattooed technician pierced our baby's nose.

Maybe I've changed, too.  Since 1995.  Since Claire made her dramatic and bloody entrance.  I've certainly put on some pounds.  But I supposed I've changed in deeper, meaningful ways.  I've discovered my own temper--not a happy discovery, but an important one.  I've found a tender place, too, a place of devotion and care that will always motivate me.  To be there for Claire and her sisters.  To do what I can for the world they're living into.

And I can make a mean mac and cheese.  Now that Claire's taken a vegetarian route, I've added a pretty fair tofu stir fry to my repertoire.

Tonight, at dinner, I had to just watch, just listen.  Daughters yukking it up.  Their friends enjoying sushi and silly jokes and one another.  I pause now to take stock of all this, the changing world, my changing kin, my evolving self.  17 years later.  I want to remember how sweet this is.