blessed

baby-katie

{image is a photo of Katie as a baby, 2001}

Last night, heartbroken, I posted the following on Diary’s Facebook page.

Six years ago, Katie got her ears pierced. Not long thereafter, I took two small diamonds out of the bracelet that Luau gave to me on the day that she was born and had them made into earrings. I hid them in a box in a drawer in my closet, willing myself to wait until her 13th birthday to give them to her. Tonight, on the eve of her 13th birthday, I went into the drawer and dug out the box from its hiding spot. I opened it slowly to savor the moment. The box was empty. I don’t get it. I have no idea where the earrings went or what possibly could have happened to them. They were tiny diamonds. They had very little financial value. I can’t believe that even if anyone knew they were there they would have taken them. It just doesn’t make any sense.

I know it’s just a “thing” but, well, the truth is it hurts. I’m confused and I’m angry and I’m sad.

I found something else to give to her instead. Something that was mine as a teenager that I hope will have meaning for her as she enters this new phase in her life.

But, damn it. Just … damn it.

Like = damn it.

Once I determined that they weren’t going to magically appear in the empty box, I told Katie. I promised her that I would replace them, and luckily, it can be done with two more small diamonds from the bracelet. She told me that she would really like that.

Brooke asked if we could wake Katie up with the Happy Birthday song this morning. Once Katie agreed, we made our plan. We’ll wake Brooke early and all file into Katie’s balloon filled room together to sing. The last thing that Brooke said before bed was, “I wish that Katie will like her present.” She then responded to herself with a script. “Like it? Don’t be silly, I love it!” I couldn’t help but smile as I said goodnight to my twelve year-old for the last time. And then I crawled into bed and the joy was squashed by the weight of loss. I was angry. And sad. And confused. It just didn’t make any sense.

My phone dinged with a notification that an old friend had tagged me in a photo on Facebook.

20140306-063128.jpg

{image is a photo of a hand holding a very old book. On the binding in gold lettering is the author, Seton and the title, Katherine.}

Above the photo she had  written, “So not the same, and I cannot compare, but I have this for her thanks to her mom. Lots of love and I’m sorry for the special gift.”

My eyes filled with tears. Too many years ago to remember, I’d given Kelly that book. Of all the novels that I’ve ever read, it remains my favorite. It’s an historically accurate account of an epic love story, the details of which are fleshed out by the author’s imagination. It is a book that picks you up and deposits you somewhere else. That surrounds you completely, not just in the arc of its story, but in its sounds and its smells and a life wholly different from the one you’re living.

It had been out of print for many years so finding it (in the days before Amazon ran the world) was no easy feat. I’d searched Bibliofind and called tiny, out-of-the-way bookshops hoping for a copy. And, in a moment when she needed it, I’d given mine to Kelly.

Last night, Katie handed me an essay that she’d written for school. She thought that I would appreciate it, and of course, she was right. I asked her if she would mind if I shared it here. She was happy to oblige.

My Perfect Day

Walking through the halls of Hogwarts, I wave hello to the ghosts as I feel my feet run down the stairs, two at a time. A grin makes its way to my face as I feel the familiar lurch of the staircase changing again. The other students’ midnight black robes and striped ties brush against each other as they start to walk out. It’s sad to think that the school year is already over and that another boring summer with the Dursleys is beginning. I watch as everyone files out of the school of wizardry to the enormous red steam engine. Then I put my book down and sigh happily to look around and see even more books in the quiet library. The sound of nothing except the crinkle of turning pages fills my ears. I stand up to select a few more books, and then get back to the reading.

What is perfection? Perfection is the soft, friendly smell of a new book. Perfection is soaking in a story you haven’t read before, and having more books when you finish the first. Perfection is knowing that nothing bad will happen, because you will be reading all day. My perfect day would be spent at a library. I would spend the whole day just sitting in the corner of the library, surrounded by a pile of books to read. I would sit alone, devouring the books one by one. I would stay all day, just reading.

A book can transport you to places that you have never been to before. Books can take you to Hogwarts with Harry, and then straight to Maycomb, Alabama with Jem and Scout. When I pick up a book, I immediately get lost in a new world. I become friends with the characters. I fall into the world of the book, and stay there until the very last page. In a library, I am surrounded by little ships that will let me sail into a new place. I can escape reality, and enter a world where anything is possible. I walk side by side with my favorite characters, and discover things I had never known before. I learn the power of love and friendship, and I learn how to be brave every time I open a new book.

Books are powerful, and libraries are filled with them.

I love the comforting feeling of a library. I love the ability to plop down with a few books, and know that nobody will disturb me. Anywhere else, there is the possibly that someone will come in and start talking to me. Don’t get me wrong, I love talking to people, but I don’t like to be interrupted while I am reading. If someone interrupts a book, you lose your place in the world you were in. You have to slowly descend back into that world. In a library, nobody interrupts you, because everyone else is doing the exact same thing: reading.

I wouldn’t need to get up for anything. If I got hungry, I would have some dry, simple food next to me. I would not move from my spot, except to maybe select a few more books. I would sit, unmoving, with an exception of my hands turning the thin, smooth pages.

When reading, I can feel as if I am the characters. I can feel what the characters feel, know what they know. Because of reading, I am a hero. I saved millions of lives when I was Tris. I knew what it was like to nearly starve to death when I was Katniss. I knew true fear when I was Vera Claythorne. I knew what it was like to die and come back when I was Harry. Because of reading, I have grieved and laughed and cried. I felt pain and excitement. In a library, I would have the books to let me be someone else for a while. With books, I learn new passions and feelings. The books swallow me up and teach me a lesson. If I were to spend the whole day reading, I would spend the whole day learning as well.

Maybe the fact that I would rather spend the day at the library than the beach makes me different, but I couldn’t care less. I would be alone, reading in the library, and I would be the happiest person in the world. My perfect day would be spent surrounded by books, in a library, where anything and everything is possible.

Books are not mere binding and paper to my girl. They are worlds to be discovered, stories to be lived.

When I asked Kelly if she was sure about Katherine, she wrote, “It has been one of my treasures that I have kept close by [but] it’s yours for her. I was just a keeper.” I cried as I read her words. The thing that meant the most to my girl was exactly what she would get. Katie puts so much love and care and consideration into the universe, and here it was, coming right back at her from the most unexpected corner.

My wish on this, her thirteenth birthday, is that she continues to find the love that she shares with the world flowing back to her. That she gets hurt just enough to know what it means to truly love another, yet not so much that she guards her heart. That she dares enough to know what it feels like to succeed after failure. That she continues to see the beauty in everyone she meets. That she follows her dreams and allows them to change as she does. That she goes out into the world and gets messy trying to do something, change something, be something …  and that she knows that her Mama will always, always be a safe place to land.

And that people like Kelly keep showing up for her at exactly the right time.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MY SWEET GIRL. I LOVE YOU MORE THAN SALTY FRENCH FRIES ON THE BEACH.

27 thoughts on “blessed

  1. Happy 13th Birthday to my amazing granddaughter, Katie. You are my perfection. Your writing thrills me as does your Mama’s writing. You are beautiful & amazingly talented. I love you. …and Jess, that was an amazing thing you did for Kelly.

    Love you,
    Mom

  2. There may be another writer in the family!! Her essay is beautiful. I am so excited that she will get the gift of reading for her birthday. How special!! Happy 13th to Katie!

  3. Everything works out how it is suppose to, yes? I am sorry for the loss of your earrings, but from that comes the “real” present if you will and an extra gift to you courtesy of Kelly.

  4. I love everything about this entire post, for soooo many reasons!!! I get Katie’s love of reading and books completely. I share your desire to bless my children with a meaningful gift on their birthday week, lol bc my kids birthdays always get drawn out over a week’s time with some special event or cake, gift, or party. It’s a mother’s joy to see their child’s face delight in excitement from knowing they are special and cared for, that we would plan gifts and parties so meticulously simply because we love them, and we celebrate every moment of their lives on the day we brought them into the world. Kelly really saved the day!!! What a most perfect and special gift!!!!

  5. A blessedly happy birthday to you both. The gift of loving to read was handed down from my grandmother to my mother to me and to my daughter so I truly get Katie’s perfect day. Paper instead of electronics…yes.

  6. Happy Birthday Katie! A girl after my own heart as I often choose to spend my one night out a week at the local library.

  7. Happy Birthday Katie. Really enjoyed her essay…for me, it was moving because she’s absolutely right about the power of books to transport the reader…books were my escape as a child, teen, it’s hard for me to imagine that i would have survived without them…so I find a lot of wisdom in Katie’s writing. When she publishes her first book one day, I hope she’ll sign my copy.

  8. As the mom myself of a reader and writer, I am able to relate to this post from so many angles. Happy Birthday to beautiful Katie! She is sure to follow in her Momma’s writing footsteps! What a beautiful and well written piece!

  9. ps:

    Tell Katie to start reading Proust this year. Just think…if it catches on, next year you can make her an elaborate Proust cake…should be way easier than the Harry Potter cake. No house elves or snitches, just low-energy French people milling about. I’m sure any teen would love it.

  10. Happy Birthday to You♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ ¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪ Happy Birthday to You♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ ¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪Happy Birthday ♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ ¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪ Dear Kaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa Teeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee ♥ ♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ ¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪Happy Birthday♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ ¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪…to you!♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ ¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪…

  11. As others on FB say pray to St Anthony.,..He has come through for me many times. I always makes a charity donation when I do this…

  12. Dear Katie,

    Your writing has come a long way since the days of your blog. I really enjoyed those stories. I can tell that you are growing in to quite the bright, beautiful young lady…like the daughter I never had, but always wished for. Thank you for being a shining light of inspiration.
    Happy Birthday!
    I hope to have the privilege of continuing to watch you grow.

    With Love,
    A mother of 3 boys

  13. Happy birthday to your beautiful girl! I had to smile when I saw the photo of the book, I am literally down to the last 30 pages and bereft that it’s ending. I love medieval historical fiction, am happy to know this author wrote many more books. Have a wonderful time celebrating!

    • Katie is a lot like me when I was a kid with reading. I read like a parched man drinks water. Books were my escape.

      Has Katie read the Laura Ingalls Wilder series? Those were my favorite. When I couldn’t sleep at night, I pretend that my stuffed animals, dolls, and I were pioneers on the Oregon Trail 😉 Boxcar Children are also probably out of her age range, but also a good series to read.

  14. The apple is just like the apple tree that brought it into the world, similar in so very many ways. What a joy you all are….
    Love you ALL,
    Dad

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