Friday, 17 June 2011

Many happy returns


Today is my oldest daughter’s “golden” birthday:
She is seventeen on the 17th of June.

We moved to England when I was 7 months pregnant with Rebecca, and I remember, so vividly, that last long week of waiting . . . and how the days seemed to be suspended, caught in amber, dragged out into long golden twilight.

I remember feeling really impatient to know what this unknown person was going to be like . . . and the answer was smart, strong, fierce, quick-witted, opinionated, stubborn and charming. She looked like her father; still does, but never more so than the moment she was born. She was quick to walk, to talk, to read. She was impatient and bossy – but with an endearing giggle, and an unexpected tender side. I hardly remember life before her, and I’m amazed at how quickly the years of her childhood have gone by; how clich├ęd is that?

At this time of year, I’m always really conscious of the fact that we are climbing ever nearer to the summer solstice. Does anyone else feel slightly melancholy when we tip over to the other side -- and the days begin to gradually diminish?

And now, as my oldest daughter nears adulthood, I think about how we are nearing some sort of zenith – but a kind of falling-off point, too. And unlike the seasons, my daughter’s childhood won’t come around again. That funny little person – my little Beccalou, who always had her nose in a book – is just a snapshot now.

In a week, my daughter will be going to Ghana – and who knows how that challenge will change her? Later on this summer, she will experience job internships, university applications, a trip to Cyprus, a long weekend at the Reading Festival. Solo adventures, all. Not unaccompanied, but unaccompanied by me. I’m happy for her, and delighted by her growing confidence and sense of her own powers. There is nothing, at seventeen, but a world of possibility . . . and mothers need to make way and step aside. (But she knows where to find me!)

Happy Birthday, Rebecca! And many happy returns

34 comments:

Poshyarns said...

Oh Bea, what a beautiful and poignant post. The time seems to go all too quickly after the long slow pregnancy. There are still so many adventures ahead for both of you and you should feel so very proud of the person you send out into the world. I am sure is thrilled by your words here, Happy Birthday Rebecca.

Lucy said...

Poignant indeed. Yes, I always feel melancholy at that tipping point of the year, that it's come too soon, as I'm sure you do about your daughter. But how wonderful that you are letting her fly with such clear-eyed generosity. Wishing her, and you, all good things for that marvellous future, as you say, it's all just beginning really...

Lucy said...

Oh, and meant to say, that is such a lovely picture!

rachel said...

Such a sweet and sad time for a mother, as her job nears completion and her baby steps into adulthood - but you're right - she knows where to find you. And she will have many occasions when she is glad of that, to be able to return to the loving, safe and familiar heart who helped her get ready for that journey. Happy birthday to her, and well done to you too!

slommler said...

Happy Birthday!! Yes the years race by and as they near adulthood...speed is paramount!! Sigh!
My son is now in his 40's and has five teenagers of his own. OMG!! Time is still speeding by!
Summer solstice does make me sad as well
Hugs
SueAnn

Tracy Golightly-Garcia said...

Hello Bee

What a lovely post! I wish your daughter a very Happy Birthday and safe travels.

I am learning to let go of my daughter--it's hard, but I know I must.

Have a great week end

Best
Tracy :)

Dragonfly said...

You've captured it so well. I love the idea of a golden birthday too - I will remember that when No2 celebrates his 21st birthday on 21st August. Not for a while yet...

steven said...

hello bee! i'm always so grateful to read what special mothers feel as the stages of their children's lives pass by. i love each one, but i also feel sadness to see them leave. steven

Elizabeth said...

Happy Birthday, Rebecca!
What a lovely tribute by your mother and what adventures await you.
Dear Bee, C and I are closer than ever and she is now 30
so a daughter is a blessing indeed.
Yes, and so glad both of yours love books--
how dull life would be if they didn't!

Vintage Jane said...

Beautiful words that convey such love that only a mother can know. M x

Tracy said...

Lovely love-portrait of your daughter, Bee. I admire her plans coming up for this summer... May she be safe, happy and inspired. :o) Happy Summer to you all ((HUGS))

karen - Simply Inspired said...

happy birthday, rebecca - love the photo of her nose stuck in a book! tipping point and approaching empty nest...please come sit beside me and share some tea...i understand...oh how i understand...

spudballoo said...

Sniff sniff...oh you've capture it all so perfectly as always. she's on the cusp, that's for sure. 17 is heady. I remember being 17 very clearly, mostly because that's when I learnt to drive and freedom presented its callingcard.

You know, I almost dread 21 June because then we're on the wane. And it nearly always feels like we've hardly got started.

What a perfect picture. Happy Birthday B.

PS I owe you email!

Ali said...

So beautifully put, my eldest just turned ten and im already lamenting her little kid years...I guess I need to stay glued to the screen for the next seven years so not to miss a moment.

Jenny Schouten Short said...

Happy Birthday to your daughter and congratulations to you.
I've just been reading down your blog and didn't realize you are from Texas. So am I! I live in The Netherlands most of the year. How did you come to live in England?

julochka said...

after her hijacking of your facebook (some part of me still fears you're locked up in the basement) I had a moment of wondering with this one, but then I thought naan, it's Beth's voice. happy birthday to becca.

and yes, I know that dread of approChing midsummer and the dread that follows. *sigh*

Meri said...

That time of letting go is so bittersweet. Baby steps, Mom.

Jan said...

LOvely thoughts, Bee.
My children are well grown up now, but still close with their own happy families.... so I'm constantly grateful thinking how lucky I am.
Good to make contact again, Bee!

Marcheline said...

Parents sense the passage of time through the growth of their kids. As I have no kids, I feel it through my garden. The little dogwood tree that my husband gifted me when we moved in now towers over our heads and shades half our yard. I am grateful that plants don't go to college. 8-)

Relyn said...

Oh! Happy, happy birthday to your dear Rebecca. What a love you two share. Dear Rebecca, may your day be wonderful and your year full of blessings. May you have only happy surprises, read only great books, and never settle for less than you deserve. May you be full of compassion, spirit, and laughter. Happy birthday.

Cottage Garden said...

Bea, this is such a poignant piece of writing which I'm sure chimes with many parents.

I wish Rebecca a very happy birthday; she will have the best of times this summer - 17 is a wonderful age.

Jeanne
x

PS Thank you for your always lovely comments at mine. x

Lisa said...

Happy belated birthday to Rebecca! You captured so beautifully the melancholy I'm feeling about summer, about my children and about time in general. I find myself watching videos shot in the 1980s and 90s and wishing for those days back.

I'm so glad that Rebecca is getting to enjoy the freedom unique to her age. As mothers, it's one of our biggest achievements and challenges to watch them go.

Kristen In London said...

This speaks to me as you can imagine! How wonderful Becca sounds, and how fulfilling your relationship has been. Everyone I trust says that once that relationship has been built, nothing can put it asunder. She knows where to find you, and the nice thing is, you'll be happy to see her when she does. Best of luck to her, and to you, Bee.

Shaista said...

Happy Seventeenth Rebecca!! Slightly belated... and the best of good luck on the African travels. My brother is in Africa with his fiancee, travelling from country to country... unforgettable times ahead for you no doubt.
And Bee - hey, there's facebook!!
I know it's tough being a mother - watching my own mother's heart... constantly fluttering with anxiety and swelling with pride :)

Cait O'Connor said...

A little late but belated birthday wishes to Rebecca. A gorgeous photo to treasure.

Alyson (New England Living) said...

By far the best birthday post to a child I've ever read! I hope she had a lovely, magical birthday. 17 is such a great age!

elizabethm said...

This is a lovely post and one which resonates strongly. My daughter is now 32 with a child of her own and our relationship still makes me smile and is woven into my life. The year she went to university, I, with a fascinating career of my own and no fear of empty nest syndrome, had to pull to the side of the road to weep when I was hit by how she had gone. They grow and we can only give them roots and give them wings.

Sarah@afterhood said...

Lovely thoughts: both familiar and bittersweet. i found your link on Kristen in London... As an long time ex-pat myself (though I recently became a re-pat, and am still trying to decide where I live!), so much of this brings back warm memories. Thank you!

Lizzy Frizzfrock said...

Oh Bea, Rebecca sounds like a true free spirit. It's wonderful that she is so inclined toward adventure. Many happy returns to her and to you.

Christina said...

aww, i hope rebecca, had a good birthday.
xo

Barrie said...

This post really touched me, especially as my 17 year old is nearing his next birthday....

Sarah Laurence said...

A late happy birthday to Rebecca. How was Ghana or is she still there?

Au Pair UK said...

she is really cute and its a nice picture! Happy birthday Rebecca.

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