Nineteen years ago today, my baby sister took FOREVER being born. At least that was my fourteen-year old opinion. I KNEW she was going to be born because the night before, my parents and I had stayed late at the office and then Dad told Mom, "You can have that baby now" and then later that night (early the next morning?) woke me to steal my bed for Mom (they had a birth-unfriendly waterbed). Even so, I opted to find a ride to church (it was Sunday) and then went to a friend's house for the day. When I came home, there was still no baby. It was in the middle of "Columbo" that I heard her cry.
She was big, beautiful, and bald. The midwives gave her a teeny pink shirt that said, "Born at Home." Someone called the next day to congratulate Mom and must have asked her what they named the baby and Mom must have been exhausted, because she answered, "Jezebel" and I shouted, "REBECCA!" and Mom giggled and said, "Oh, Rebecca."
For a while, the spelling of Becca's name was a mystery to Mom (whose spelling has always been a humorous mystery to the rest of us). She used to say, "Like in the Bible," until one of us all-knowing ones pointed out that the Bible spells it R-E-B-E-K-A-H.
From the moment she was born (almost), she was MINE. Because I said so. I begged to be the one to bounce her and take her to the crying room at church. Once I learned how to drive, I took her everywhere. And then I had to leave for college, and I couldn't take her. I cried because I was going far away to college, and she cried because she was going to kindergarten.
But I would come home for holidays and summer vacation, and then I came home for good and got married and lived not very far away. We resumed a routine-of-sorts. Every couple of years, she would fix neurotic meals according to my cravings and play with whatever children I had while I waited for the morning sickness to subside. And then it would, and the kids and I would pick her up one day a week from high school and head to the donut shop and thrift stores to see what treasures we could unearth. On the way, we would discuss with disgust the mandatory "Woman of God" class (a misnomer for sure) that she took at the same "Christian" high school I attended. And the weekly chapels provided much fodder for mockery as we tried to make some sense of the heightened emotionalism and irreverent nonsense masquerading as spirituality.
But then she left for college. It was good and right and natural. And it was hard, made harder by the fact that my family was also moving many states away. This time, there were no guarantees of summer vacations or holidays. But that's the wonderful part of being flesh-and-blood: you don't need guarantees. Somehow, someway, it will happen. There WILL be a "next time." And no matter where she is or where we are, I will always have her number and can call her at will. If the only reason I have for calling is to ask if she's near a computer so she can mapquest the middle of nowhere for me because that's where I'm driving and don't know where to turn, so be it.
It is odd for me to see her grow up. She has friends now that I don't know and whose older siblings are not my friends or even my acquaintances. She can do things I didn't teach her. She doesn't need me to fix her sippy cup or her hair or her toenails. She now influences my children in the ways I thought I influenced her. Unbeknownst to me, just a month ago, my three daughters were taking careful note as she lovingly and gently brushed my matted hair, me laying appreciatively on the couch after being totally wiped out by a shower. And now, they daily offer to brush my hair for me. And they surprise me with their gentleness, a trait that I know they learned from her and that neither they nor she learned from me.
While this is a bittersweet reminder of the transience of things, it is so much more sweet than bitter. What a comfort to know that God moves His world without my help! That my family here is well-cared for and others elsewhere are equally loved and cared for. That even when we don't bash the weekly chapel, our thoughts about God's Word and modern trends are strikingly similar.
I love watching you grow, Becca-boo -- seeing you flourish and find talents and sharpen your abilities. I love seeing your amazing photographs and watching you patiently put together a wooden boat with Benjamin and play princesses with the girls and laugh at "The Office." I love watching you rib our brother Daniel and watching my oldest son rib you. You are so much fun.
Happy Birthday, even if you did take your time coming. "Good things come to those who wait," I guess they say. And you are definitely a Good Thing.
photo: Rebecca pausing from photographing Elkhorn Ghost Town, taken by Ethan