How did this happen?

That glint, that gleam, that sparkle and mischief has all been there from the get-go. And now, in the blink of my one good eye
she’s twenty-one years old. How did this happen?

I’ve written here often and at length about my lovely daughter, Abby, aka, The Snarl. That nickname stuck after one particularly trying hair brushing episode. She was three and had that softest, finest, golden hair that angels sometimes have. It tended to tangle up during sleep and I finally exclaimed, in exasperation, "Abisnarl!" You already know that she is my golden girl- bright and funny and accomplished and lacking sufficient caution. A lover of nature, a master of chess, an explorer. She is a mermaid, too.Snarl3_2

Here is one small anecdote. When she was twelve years old I took her to Nevis in the West Indies and we stayed in an open frame bungalow perched on the side of the volcano, hanging over the sea.  We had a broad, wide porch and when we leaned over the rail we could see, far far below, eagle rays gliding past. One afternoon I hired a young local man to take us out in his small boat and teach us to snorkel. I was so worried about getting sea water in my snorkel that I only hesitantly floated about the surface. This young man was a free diver; he earned extra money by diving down to great depths without any equipment to search for rare and desirable shells to sell to tourists. After he dove down and stayed under for what seemed an eternity he came up with a beautiful small yellow shell that he gave to Abby and he said, "Come see. There’s a turtle down there." And before I could speak, down they went. And they stayed down under the water. Almost forever. And when she came up she was smiling like never before and then she was transformed. Now she dives with equipment in blue holes, night dives, and she can use that special mix of nitrox for particularly deep or long dives. And she free dives. She goes down, under the sea, just as a mermaid might.

So,does this birthday mean that she will no longer be my baby? Twenty-one seems to be one of those milestone birthdays and since I had her at thirty-six this birthday, in particular, leaves me feeling somewhat old. But I’d rather not think that it’s too old to have a baby nor that 21 is too old to be someone’s baby because she will always be mine. Happy Birthday, Abigail.

maggie and millie and molly and may
went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles, and

milly discovered a stranded star
whose rays  five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles; and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find at the sea

I sat upon a promontory,

  And heard a mermaid, on a dolphin’s back,

    Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath,

      That the rude sea grew civil at her song;

        And certain stars shot madly from their spheres,

          To hear the sea-maid’s music
(William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream)


17 responses to “How did this happen?

  1. Happy birthday, Abby. I will have to tell my girls that I’ve seen photos of a real mermaid.

    It’s too bad your mommy doesn’t love you very much. ; )

  2. Oh my! I forgot that this was coming. Oh dear! Nyssa turns the big 21 in April. And I thought last year’s birthday was a big thing… the end of a teenager. I guess the only difference is that I was 33 when I had her….sniff!

    “I’ll love you forever,
    I’ll like you for always.
    As long as I’m living,
    My baby you’ll be.”

    Happy Birthday to Abby….

    Oh, and Vicki…. the junior year brings the beginning of GRE exams, the hunt for graduate school, and even more applications …. do we ever finish with those applications?

  3. If it is any consolation, I still consider myself my mother’s baby – even as I sit, almost 25 years old, rocking my own baby in my arms.

    Happy Birthday Abisnarl. And congrats to you, Vicki, for bringing her so far.

  4. We have a 21st birthday coming up next week. It is astonishing, and bittersweet. I have heard some amazing stories about Abisnarl, but I have to admit that some of my favorite ones are about her naughty spitfire self. You know, of course, that she always has a bed in the Washington DC area if the need ever arises.

  5. My older child is only twelve (squawk! ONLY 12!), but I know what you mean. How do they get so BIG!? So… so… human?

    Happy Birthday.

  6. My 21 year old informed me she was HAPPY yesterday, in capital letters. Are there any more beautiful words?

    Your baby, my baby, always in our hearts and arms. I’ve got the same bathtub picture, all smiles and splashes. I particularly love the peace symbol/mermaid photograph. Happy birthday Abby and to you too Vicki. We mothers have two (or more), our own and the day(s) our lives changed with childbirth.

  7. Happy birthday to Abby. To you, vicki, I say this is one of the most beautiful love letters I’ve ever seen. Abby is a lucky young woman to have grown up with such love.

    OT– I tried several times to comment on your previous post where you wrote so eloquently about maybe not blogging. Typepad would not let me comment (bad typepad, bad). I just want to say that you have one of the most beautiful voices in the blogosphere. You write with incredible good humor and emotion about everything. It would be a huge loss to not have your perspective. I see that you’ve continued posting with your usual astounding grace and flourish, and for that I am grateful and glad. I hope that it continues.

  8. Magical!

    You are not amblyopic when it comes to seeing the extraordinary gifts and beauty of your precious daughter! Perhaps you and Abby are a bit like Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s Minnie and Winnie.

    Happy Birthday to your dearie!

  9. Abby: Your Mom’s poetry collection is pretty good, but you are the greatest mermaid in the sea. Happy Birthday!

  10. Happy Birthday, Abby. (and to you, too, Mom!)

  11. Happy birthday to Abby on reaching the big 21, and congrats to you Vicki for raising such an extraordinary daughter. We have a son who just turned 21 but he’s been an adventure to raise for different reasons. I’d go into details but I’m not sure the statute of limitations has expired yet.

  12. Geez, you and the Florida Cracker with your loving tributes to your fine offspring!!!

  13. STOP making me cry, dammit!

    Happy B’day to your girl.

    Happy New Year to you and Rich.


  14. I am facing the 21 birthday this year too, and expect to write a very weepy post when that moment arrives in late June. The legal age to be an adult is 18, but it really feels more like 21. Happy Birthday to your mermaid!

  15. Happy Birthday, Mermaid Abby! Do you know how much your mom loves you?

    (I love ee cummings and I wish I had a shell to sing and make me forget my troubles!)

  16. Happy birthday to your pretty mermaid!

  17. Absolutely beautiful.

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