Friday, May 30, 2008

Happy Birthday, Rachel!

The month of May is full of family birthdays. Today is the last one. Our beautiful daughter, Rachel Rebecca, today turns 30 on the 30th. Several people (the birthday girl included) have asked me how I feel about that. Well, I kind of feel like some of the gas station owners when gas hit $4 a gallon, and they didn’t have enough numeral 4’s in stock to change all their price signs. I’m not sure I’m quite prepared to have a kid (OK, young adult) with the number 3 at the beginning of her age. But prepared I must be, for the day is upon us.

The greatest fallacy when a new family member is born is to think you are getting a “baby,” when in fact, you are getting a baby and, if you’re lucky, a 10-year-old, 20-year-old, 30-year-old, and many decades beyond. Each year has been full of surprises. We were surprised to find out I had been carrying a girl on May 30, 1978, for that is when she came into the world, and we have been surprised ever since.

That’s one thing great about having children - you can’t predict where anything will go.

In looking back over her childhood photos, one can see she had eclectic sense of style. Now as an adult, she has wonderful taste in dressing herself and her family (although no telling what she’s wearing this morning at home as she reads this blog!). In high school, she was enamored with football, football, and more football. She was the first female manager of her school’s football team. She helped take her school team to the state championship. She never missed a 49’ers game. She was confident she would grow up to marry Steve Young, their quarterback at the time. Now she hasn’t had a chance to see a football game in ages. She doesn’t even keep up with the standings. Her life has become filled with other things more important.

As she grew up, she was never interested in cooking or domestic chores. (It didn’t help that her Dad did all the cooking in the family. For years she thought that was the norm.) She was a true women’s advocate. She believed women could and should do anything, and she prepared herself for a preferred career as ESPN’s first female football anchor. After signing onto college as a communications major, though, she read a book which helped her figure out that her talents lay not in sports broadcasting but in teaching, and she switched to education and never looked back. And how is she in the kitchen? Well, that young adolescent Rachel would have been amazed to learn that young adult Rachel cooks like a pro, makes her own bread, and even made her own baby food when she became a mother!

The teenage Rachel spent money like crazy, if she had it. The adult Rachel has learned the value of a dollar, little though it be, and spends accordingly. The Rachel of a few years ago would have thought choosing a pink environment for her little girl would have been giving into stereotypes - but guess what color Caroline’s room is? The teenage Rachel who was brought kicking and screaming to Maine in 1996 is now married to a native Mainer and can appreciate the beauty of the state.

Now the little baby who - gasp! - came home from the hospital 30 years ago today IN MY LAP IN THE FRONT SEAT OF THE CAR is a certified car seat technician, spending many hours volunteering at a local hospital and other places to check car seat safety, instruct parents on choosing and using car seats, and doing her part to make child safety a priority in all vehicles.

So as you can see, there have been a lot of major changes in Rachel’s life, as there should be, and I’m sure there will be many more, as there should be. But all the while, some things have not changed, and I pray they never will. She is still full of love, laughter, and creativity (even if she denies her gifts in the latter). She has always been intelligent and a fantastic speller, grammarian, and book lover, and those talents she is passing on to her children. She has always been exceptionally tolerant to human differences, and that has only grown stronger. She has always been loyal and committed to her family, and as a family we are better for it.

Rachel has been known to worry, however, that she has disappointed me in some way, because she has never taken up quilting or sewing or music. What she fails to realize is that I did not want a daughter who is my clone. I just wanted a daughter who was intelligent, kind, wise, who could spell like an expert, learn a smattering of French, and know some basic facts about Abraham Lincoln - and I got that and so much more! We couldn't be prouder!

Oh yes - and she has always loved birthdays - anybody’s birthday, but her own is always special. She loves the recognition, reflection, and celebration that comes with birthdays. So Happy 30th Birthday, sweet Rachel! You have matured in wise ways, and have stayed the same in equally wise ways. We love you!

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