Today is my Hannah's fifteenth birthday. It's been a good day - a full day. And all along I have reflected on what a dream and a gift she is to all of us.
Fifteen years ago when she was born at 3:15 a.m., Earl and I couldn't believe it when the doctor announced, "A Girl!!" After four boys, we never thought we would have a daughter and yet here she was: rosy and pink and beautiful. Right from the beginning we saw that rosebud mouth, those perfect dimples, the upturned nose, the watchful eyes.
After her bath, Earl settled with her into a chair by the window. At daybreak he sang “Here Comes the Sun.” I remember making him promise that he would never let me become a "polyester pantsuit mother" - now that I had a daughter, I would need to keep my fashion sense together! I started making plans right then, and I haven't stopped since.
My mother brought Chris, 12, and Ben, 8, to see her later that morning. They had their baseball hats on and were just as charmed as we were. Ben drew a picture of "Hannah: The Baby Floren" in Chris' arms. We laugh today at his cubist portrait, worthy of a Picasso nod. Son David arrived after work that evening, his blue eyes twinkling as he held her, knowing that the two of them would share a special bond. Oldest son Joe sent roses from out-of-town with a card that read: “Here is your reward for all those years as the mother of boys. In the purest sense: Happy Mother's Day."
I just knew that from these moments on, life was going to be a wonder with this daughter. She has had the blessings of her father and her brothers, and she has absorbed the best of each of them in becoming her own self.
She also takes in from the women that came before her. She comes from a long line of strong women – strong in different times, and for different reasons. From Mary Amelia, who opened her home to everyone and who burned dinner nearly every night because she was paying more attention to her books than to her stove; from Ada Florence, who was widowed at 28 and raised her children on her own, then opened her own grocery store at 50; from Eleanor Jeanne, who has met numerous hardships and tragedies with humor, strength and determination; from me.
I didn’t know anything about raising a girl today, and yet she was entrusted to us halfway into my 40th year. So I draw upon the strength and wisdom from these women who created me.
What I have learned is that raising a daughter today, like it must have been all those years before, is helping her to find a balance: a balance between being confident, yet humble; contemporary, yet classy; reserved, yet brave; adventurous, yet calm. I have learned that it can be, at times, like watching a little movie of myself - the good times and the painful times.
And what I have also learned is the lesson that is there for all of us as parents: That being her mother has brought out the best in me.
Happy Birthday, My Sweet Hannah. What a dream. What a gift.