Dolly. Happy Birthday.
I could add a thousand more pictures. I could do this all day. This is for me to remember all the years. They look good. Sunshine. Friends. Carefree smiles. Grins. Those blue gray green eyes. I’m just so lucky to have her.
She was my second colicky baby. She was fiery from very early on. At 9 months, she completely changed and turned angelic. She was a golden toddler with full cheeks and light all around her. At two, she went back to fiery. She would only wear cheetah print and she refused preschool. Mum and Aubee assisted her in dropping out of Christ Lutheran Mornings Out. She rarely wore clothes or shoes. She was following her siblings and keeping up – while naked with a paci in her mouth. Her temperament see sawed like this until she found her voice and realized she was the boss.
Once at big girl school, she has always been stellar. She is cut out to be a CEO or ruler of the free world. She leads effortlessly and leaves you feeling relieved that you took her advice and suggestions.
She loves loves loves horses and dogs- even though she was bit and has little scars on her face. When I pick her up from the barn, the glow is in her cheeks. Every horse is know by Dolly and she wants to care for them and know them more than jump or show.
She plays lacrosse and rejects all things soccer. Dolly doesn’t choose the same path as her siblings. They like hot weather. She likes cold. They need togetherness and she needs alone time. They are messy and she is neat. She hates bike riding and walking the dogs late at night. She hates if people sit on her bed and the biggest fit she ever threw was about wearing khakis to a choral performance. She loves us so intensely but in times of emotional upheaval, she turns off. She doesn’t cry easily in front of others. Her fire remains under wraps. She wants to not stand out- which can be ohh sooo hard with me as your mom and with Mim as your sister. She accepts us completely but she is afraid someone else will think bad of us and she wants to protect us from our own weirdness.
She has talked for George his whole life. There are nights when I go to bed and I hear laughter and two voices in the living room. And I open up my eyes and shake off the falling asleep feeling to make sure everything is ok. Who is the second voice joking with Dolly? And it turns out it is George. With Dolly, he becomes himself. And I fall asleep happy and comfy that they have each other.
She grows up and we refuse to acknowledge it. Her parents, her grandparents, her siblings continue to call her Little Dolly. We picture her pouty cheeks and golden curls digging in the sand and swimming in the shallow end. Without our admitting it, she is 16 whether we like it or not. She, too, will go to college in a couple of years. She, too has grown up. She hasn’t listened a single time when we acted like she was still a baby. She never has. She has always been ready to lead and make her own decisions.
She has such a great group of friends. Something I never really got the knack of. They have countless slumber parties and trips to Taqueria Del Sol. Not a lot of drama. Solid friendships that have withstood cross country moves, sibling difficulties and annoying parents.
I’m so proud of Dolly. When I think of this time in her life, I will picture her sitting on the floor of her bedroom with fuzzy blankets, paintbrushes and a tool box of acrylic paint on one side and a lap top and spiral notebooks with color coded handwritten notes on the other. A big water bottle. Hair rubber bands. I pass by her room and just a glance makes me think I have permission to interrupt. She stops me as I ramble and says, “Is that what you came in here for?” She knows I just want to be around her and I’m rambling to extend the time before she dismisses me.
When George goes to college next year, it will be Dolly, Mim and me. Can you believe it? Four years ago there were eight of us in this condo and next year there will be 3. And I am so lucky that Dolly will be here to ignore my sentimentality and enforce some normalcy. We all need some straight and narrow in our life. We can’t all be willy nilly. When Mim calls “Shot Gun” and races to the front seat, Dolly will not be pleased. She will take the front back at least 60% of the time as was done to her. When we want to avoid the winter, her glow will appear and show us the beauty of the season we feared. She makes snow a playground, when we only want the beach.
We need this opposite. We need Dolly.
And know that I resist her embracing of my opposites because we are just alike. I am as stubborn and unable to accept help. I didn’t know that about myself as a teenager, but Dolly does and in the wee small hours when Mim sleeps, there are tiny moments when Dolly lets me in and shares her pride and righteousness. When I think she terribly dislikes me and thinks I dress like a Sears catalog housewife, she cleans the whole house and complements me. I wasn’t strong or smart enough to let my mom in on the secret that I wasn’t perfect. I clung to that teenage stereotype. Dolly lets me in just enough so that I can know how truly cool she is. Thank God I have two more years of her.