Friday, October 14, 2011

Melissa's Turn

Tomorrow, October 15, is Melissa's 22nd birthday. It's also my mom's, who incidentally predicted that my first child might be born on her birthday. I profiled my mom last mother's day, so this one is all for Melissa.

Oh, where to start with Melissa? How about this: true to her lifelong desire to get going and grow up, she arrived a week before her due date. I was so happy to be a mom, and to have her as my first child, but that's not to say there weren't struggles.

Melissa was a spirited child. Some would say brat, but it wasn't that she was bratty per se. She was spirited. Everything about Melissa has always been intense. Ask anyone who knows her, and they'll back me up on this. She was that intense as a baby, toddler, child, too. That intensity is part of what makes her the awesome person she is, so I can look back and be grateful for her strong presence. However, many times during her early years I wondered if I would survive. It was like having a 20 year old in a 3 month old body. Very frustrating for her, I'm sure, and way frustrating for me.

But we managed. I know I could have done many things better as Melissa's mom. Can't we all? I spent a good deal of her early years suffering from undiagnosed chronic depression, and I'm sure that contributed to some volatile moments, which I'd just as soon forget. (You can ask David why we had to buy a new phone.) Mostly, though, she had to deal with the same thing all firstborns do: rookie parents. Poor kid.

Luckily for Melissa, we had the good fortune of soliciting advice from folks like Annabel vanRavenhorst, Jennifer Cochern, and other La Leche League leaders and fellow moms, who encouraged us to tend to her needs and not worry about "training" her to sleep on her own, wean, and all that stuff. Otherwise, she would probably be a lot more messed up than she is. (Which is not to say she's messed up at all. At least, no more than most people.)

Melissa has always been eager to grow up and precocious in the process. While I sound like I'm bragging (I am), it's also the truth. She hit all her milestones very early on, learned to read and never stopped.

She's always been in love with history. As a preschooler, we read Laura Ingalls Wilder's books to her, and Melissa got heavily into pioneers. Then it was slavery, especially the life of Harriet Tubbman. Titanic was her obsession for a good long while. And then came the Tudors and everything associated with them. No wonder my self-proclaimed history freak is a history major and talks of going to grad school in history.

I vowed never to take any of my children to soccer unless they pleaded, because I didn't really want to do that. Melissa finally asked, if nothing else I think every kid she knew played soccer. She wasn't that into it, and quit almost as fast. She had a brief foray into volleyball in 7th grade, and was really good at it, but not confident enough (my perspective. I'm sure she remembers it differently) to do it the following year. Sports have never been one of Melissa's passions.

Choir and writing have been and continue to be big parts of life for her. She is really good at both music and writing, and could go wherever she wants with those, although I think she likes to do them for her own enjoyment and take them no further than that.

Melissa is one of those people who remembers EVERYTHING (which is why I have a feeling she will dispute every single thing I'm writing here), particularly the tiniest details. At least if they pertain to her. This trait serves her well in school and lots of other areas, but it also means she will sometimes remember those slings and arrows of life far longer than others, who have adapted by repressing those memories. So she can hold a grudge. Just be forewarned.

The other quirky trait (okay, there are many, to be honest) Melissa has is she's a huge worrier. She worries she'll get bad grades, that she has a brain tumor, that the satellite will fall on her. Sometimes these worries are humorous to the rest of us. Like the time she was sure a murderer had come into our house in the middle of the night and moved the laundry basket. (Yes, the murderer moved the laundry basket.) Or the time in junior high when, after learning about the gurgling mass of underground molten water and rock in Yellowstone and Idaho, she came home convinced our whole world was about to explode and we would die. (No, she doesn't watch scary movies.)

Her many lovely traits definitely override these sometimes irritating ones. Melissa doesn't have hundreds of friends; she has a handful of very, very close friends. If she counts you as her friend, she will be loyal and present for you no matter what. It takes her a while to get to know people and let you into her life, but once you're there, she will be your friend for life.

Melissa's sense of humor is one of her strongest traits. All her teachers used to comment how she was the only one in the class who ever got their jokes. She also sees humor in things others aren't even paying attention to--again, a piece of her intensity that makes her so one-of-a-kind. She appreciates almost all humor, whether it's just silly or highly intellectual. This is one reason she loves Shakespeare--and other theatre as well. She gets subtle humor. (Yes, I know, a lot of Shakespeare's humor isn't really all that subtle.)

One of our favorite challenges among Melissa's friends is to make her laugh when she has just taken a drink of something and wait to see if she swallows, spits, or it comes out her nose. Great fun. (Ask her about the diet coke incident. I don't know if she took a drink on that one, but she laughed a good long time.)

Melissa has tried on many personas at various times in her life, and--dare I say--I think she is finally finding her authentic self. Or at least the beginnings of it.

I could go on and on. It has been a privilege that I do not take lightly to be the mother of this amazing woman. I love to hang out with her, yes even shop with her. I love to cook with her, go to movies with her, chat with her, and drink beer with her. I hope we have decades more time to enjoy each other's friendship as adults.

Happy Birthday, Melissa.

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