Twenty four years ago tomorrow, at around four in the afternoon, Courtney dollface was born and I learned the difference between happy and complete.
I had the first of my three or four thousand heart to hearts with Courtney less than twelve hours later when I propped her up against my knees, looked her over as though she was a creature who'd been dropped from the moon, and thanked her. I promised to do my best, and asked God to give us both patience. I wondered if she'd be a little like me. I wondered if, in a couple of decades, we would have anything in common.
For the next twenty-four years, I watched my beautiful girl grow up before my eyes, move away, and become her own woman - smart, wise, funny and kind, with a heart that wraps around those lucky enough to have earned her love. She grew up with my guidance, and sometimes in spite of it. We're not the same people it turns out, but we've both been enriched by the differences between us. We'd run into traffic for each other.
I am stunned by the moments I catch myself seeing my dollface the way the world probably does. Or when I realize the decisive, independent person she is -even as the sight and sound of my daily influence has fallen away with time and geographical separations.
God came through with the patience we needed to go through almost two decades together and still plan lunches together at the Cheesecake Factory like long-lost college roomates. As her next chapter begins - love, career, marriage, children - I will stick my bossy mommy hat in a place where she'll find it if she ever needs to borrow it. I will be enjoying my softer hat which I borrowed from my own mother. It says across the front, in letters only we can see, "mentor."
Now there is a different word to describe the feeling of having any part in launching such a wonderful spirit into the world - and it is joy.
Happy birthday dollface, it is the easiest thing in the world to love you.