Twenty-four years old, with a new husband and an eight month old baby boy in my life. We had a little TV in that tiny apartment, but we were listening to the radio when we heard. We turned on the television to watch, like so much of the rest of the world did that day. And then we turned it off. Not knowing what else to do, we did what felt normal and comfortable - Steve put Calvin in the sling and we walked. We met up with neighbors and friends - a beautiful family with a boy Calvin's age. Equally dazed and wandering, we all clung to each other that day. They've long since moved away, but are forever in my heart for many reasons. Especially on this day, I think about them. About how the six of us spent that awful day in September together - watching, listening, crying, wondering, and holding our baby boys extra close. We walked slowly - time feeling surreal - up and down the shore where we were living. New parents, all of us, we looked at the sturdy, giggling baby boys in front of us - and they suddenly appeared so very fragile in the knowledge of what was happening in New York and DC. What was happening felt so far away - so far from what we were experiencing right in front of us, but the hurt in our hearts felt as close as anything.
All through that pregnancy, I remember saying, "As long as she isn't born on September 11th. Please don't let it be September 11th." Who wants a birthdate marked with such horror and sadness, I thought? On that day, we were on day four after my water had broken. For days, we had done everything we could to bring labor on, and our little girl out, and that medical clock was beginning to tick on how much longer we could try. That afternoon, all those wishes - and many more - came true as we met Adelaide Margaret Soule. It was, in the end, a beautiful birth. A peaceful birth, surrounded by family and love. Filling out birth certificate papers in the early hours of the evening, with my baby girl on my chest and a house full of those who greeted her, I realized the date. A wave of emotion arrived, and left, and in its wake, I smiled another, quieter "Happy Birthday, baby girl."
My baby girl turned six today. We spent the day at home, quietly and simply, just the way she likes it. Surrounded by cousins and siblings, she ran laughing from pasture to pasture, animal to animal, stopping to climb each tree she passed. We had egg races, the boys shared stories they wrote for her, and there was apple pie for all. A day of celebration just right for sweet, complicated, sassy, beautiful Adelaide.
I was so very wrong six years ago, worrying about this date and the weight that could place on her life, on her special days. To her - as it should be - her birthday is simply the most wonderful day of the year. For the adults closest to her, her birthdate, it turns out, is a beautiful gift. For on this day, we will never, of course, forget what happened. We never should, and we never could. But amidst the sadness of that day, and the imagined pain for so many people, we have this in front of us. A bright and shining, giggling little girl dancing by, picking up every caterpillar that's in her path, and singing a made-up song all the while.
The fullness of life she embodies - that any dancing six year old or giggling seven month old embodies - fills me with peace and hope, and certainly so much love. Peace, hope and love on any day are beautiful feelings we could all use more of...but especially, I dare say, on this day.
Happy Birthday, baby girl. And, thank you.