Today, I celebrate my youngest baby girl. Not such a baby anymore. As a matter of fact, she now has a baby of her own. And as I watch her mothering that darling baby boy, I know that she has found her place in the world. (But I will talk about that precious acorn in another post.) Today, I celebrate Bethany.
Bethany Hope. She used to tell me she wasn’t too fond of her name. So many times at school, teachers and other students would call her Brittany. She argued her name was too different, too weird. Why couldn’t she just be a Brittany, like everyone else? Teachers and students called her that all the time anyway… But you know what? She is, and has always been, colorful and different Just like the rest of us in our crazy, quirky, love-jangled family. She’s a spitfire. She has the energy of the sun harnessed with a generous soul and a ready smile. When she laughs, the world shimmies. She’s that charismatic. She’s that passionate. She needed to be a Bethany. (And to tell you a secret, it’s still my favorite name of all of my children’s names.)
The name Bethany means House of Figs. Or House of Dates, depending upon what source you use. That’s part of why she didn’t like it so much. A fruity home. Really? Other people had names that symbolized beautiful things: pearls or flowers or truth. But her middle name she found a little more acceptable: Hope. That meaning goes without saying. But string those names together, and magic happens. Bethany Hope symbolizes sustenance and optimism. And sustain and uplift me, she always has. She is my baby girl. What I thought would be the last of the fruit of my loins. (Boy, was I wrong on that count.) And she is irreplaceable.
She swam into this world on a four-hour tidal wave of hard and fast labor. I kid you not, as her father and I shot down the interstate toward the hospital at 2:00 AM, I felt her shouldering her way through the birth canal and I didn’t know if we would make it on time. She burst into this world a short time later with a flourish of zest and gusto, coal black curls, and wide eyes open. My little carpe diem girl.
Let me tell you, she was one cute kid. Her nickname isn’t Betty Boop for nothing. She had the sweetest little square noggin with brunette spit curls and china doll skin. That noggin was tough, though. And still is. I remember a few fits (she was a champion tantrum thrower) where she flung her head forward with the shining force of an electrical storm, and I’m pretty sure the neighborhood rained sparks when it hit the pavement. She was a pintsize powerhouse. Rounding out her fiery features were bottle green eyes that shot galvanized currents of pure sass with every blink, a tiny shadow of a nose (barely a line, really) and a plump, pouty lip that could curl up or down in a fickle jiffy. I’m telling you, she was Betty Boop in bambino form.
Now my grandmother would argue she was HER little carbon copy; her spitting image, a chip off the old block. And there’s no doubt she carries in her my grandmother’s genes for telling a great story, dancing a wicked jig, and for never meeting a stranger. Just like Grandma, she feels loves fast and hard, would scale mountains for family, and will break someone’s ankles if you do her or her kin any wrong.
As a second child, Bethany often found herself slipping into the cramped crevices of a busy life, the all too familiar curse of the second child, bless her. Life was busier once she came into the world. There were full-time jobs for both her dad and me by then. And day care and dry cleaning and Disney princesses and drive-thru dinners. (No, just kidding. I cooked — most of the time.) So life was life. And it was crazy fast. I remember one specific instance – at Christmas –when she got lost in the holiday shuffle. We were hanging ornaments and singing songs and nibbling cookies and taking pictures and humming right through the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. I felt she was still too little to hang the blown glass ornaments – my Christmas prized possessions – and so we let her big sister hang all of Bethany’s very own Betty Boop blown glass ornaments. Bethany quietly took a stocking from a box, a big, fuzzy felt one with white fur at the top, and slid it over her head. She slipped into a corner, stood dejected and demeaned, and sobbed. It broke my heart when I realized I had broken hers.
When you are little, when Christmas is the biggest, the best, the most amazing and blissful part of your life thus far… when you believe with all of your heart and soul in the spirit of Christmas and the mythical Rudolph of holiday specials … when your family roasts marshmallows over open fires and sips cocoa while icing star-shaped and sleigh-shaped and Santa-shaped cookies in brilliant reds and greens… when your mother spends weeks hunting for that oh-so-perfect ornament to give you the Friday after Thanksgiving just to usher in that most magical of seasons faster… and then your family, in particular your OCD mother with her Martha Stewart tendencies and her picture-perfect propensities, forgets what the whole fuss is about in the first place… Why celebrate a season of love and hope and life, if we are too self-absorbed and caught up in the hoopla to remember what love and hope and life means? If we are so blinded by the “beauty” of what we’re creating that we crush the toes — and hopes and dreams and passions — of the ones we’re creating it for. Again, why? So I gathered up my little pintsize powerhouse, my child of passion and sass, who feels so very deeply and loves so very hard (and bruises as a result) and I vowed I would never break her spirit again.
I’ve tried, from that day on, to not let the busyness of life overtake me. To not forget to love on all of my babies in equal measure. To not let the current craziness of twin toddler boys deflect any energy from my other beautiful offspring. And I still fail. I still find myself scooping up one or the other in my metaphorical arms (the girls both live miles and miles away from me, after all) and try to shower them with love.
So today, I celebrate my second born. My beautiful House of Figs and Hope. My baby girl, who sustains me and uplifts me in ways she will never, ever know or understand. I just hope I have shown you half of her love and energy, my shining, sparkling Bethany Hope: sparkplug of passion and sass and pizazz. She is irreplaceable.