4/17/15

On Having a Family of Girls




They are three of seven. My mother has seven granddaughters. We have no grandsons, not one boy to rustle the feathers, to chase the shrieking white-haired sisters as they scurry through the grass. It's a beautiful evolution actually, a formation of swans in a stream. From the beautiful first born, my niece, Adelyn, to the newest granddaughter, my daughter, Florence, we've welcomed each little face as it emerges with it's own kind of grace and beauty. Nodding in amazement as the "sisters" of our family appear, one after another. Adelyn, Sierra, Lauren, Emily, Yahwen, Julie, Florence. 

I wanted to surprise my grandmother when I found out I was pregnant. I flew to Minnesota and waited for her champagne Buick to greet me at the airport curb. I waited until we were out of the car before telling her I had news and she should sit down for it. I handed her our first ultrasound picture, the black and white marbled baby that would be her newest grandchild. She looked up at me through wet eyes and said, "Do you think it will be a boy?!". I did. I thought it would be a boy.

When Alex and I found out we were having a girl, I was a mess. I hadn't imagined what a daughter would be like. I was thinking trains and planes and dirt bikes. I was thinking he'd be a little Alex. I hadn't seriously considered my chances of having my own daughter, an almost sacred thought. 

My great-grandmother ate butterscotch candies. She was the last living family member to speak fluent Norwegian. Her refrigerator was a mosaic of pictures, layers of  Kodak faces, her grandchildren and great grandchildren, almost all of them girls. I believe she is the beginning of all this. The Lake Itasca. I remember studying the blue veins on her under-circulating hands, looking back they look more like a map of tributaries; she had the next generation of little women flowing on the backs of her hands. 

I can't imagine holding any other little person, now. Florence is my girl. She was always coming. Last week at church we dropped Florence off at the nursery. I received a text about 15 minutes into the service, "Mom, can you come for Florence?". On the walk over to the nursery, I'm trying to consider the possible scenarios. Is she screaming? Is she hurt? Will she recognize me right away? When I get to the door I see one of the caretakers swaying around with Florence in her arms. She's crying a rather subdued cry, but it's insistent. I'm surprised that the lady doesn't hand her over to me right away, instead, she asks how to make Florence feel comforted. "Ah-umm", I stutter. I've never had to explain it in words, I've already forgotten my learning process. Now, my hands swaddled without thought, rocking is almost a habit. "I think she likes this", I say holding her upright against my chest. I bounce with my knees. But part of me knows it's not just the right hold or the bounce that calms her down.   

As I go into her room to pull her awake from her nap, I peel back the blanket that has loosened and wiggled up around her warm cheeks. I stand over her for a moment remembering what a fellow mom told me once, that every mother needs a daughter. I smile. My daughter is number seven.  







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