Girlhood. Momhood. Lifehood.
Insights on navigating the craziness of life with young kids one — “large coffee with skim please” — day at a time.

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Proud Mary

December 22nd, 2007

On the night my niece was born five years ago, it was freezing cold outside. When we got the call around 2 am that she had arrived, we were at the hospital an hour later. She was the first baby in the family so we were, needless to say, a bit anxious to meet her. The next day, as I held her in my arms atop my seven months pregnant belly, I felt a huge kick from within. “That’s your cousin saying hi,” I said.

I’m thinking about that day as I look at her from the front row of a chapel, five years later. It’s our preschool Christmas pageant. She’s up on the altar, dressed in a light blue robe adorned with gold ribbon, a white cloth delicately draped over her head. Sitting on the step below is her cousin dressed as a shepherd in a bathrobe, a bath towel and a rope headband.

She’s playing the part of Mary.

From that first night my “Mary” was born, we knew she was a feisty one. She’s a petite little thing, but her confidence and attitude can make her seem like the tallest kid in the room. And she’s not afraid of anything really…roller coasters, monsters, swim lessons, doctors or hospitals. Give her a scenario that most five-year olds would find daunting? She’s the first to sign up. At a holiday show last week, she jumped at the chance to go up on stage to sing a few tunes. In her little red sweater and stocking feet (she was too excited to put her snow boots back on) she ran up only to be quickly hidden by taller kids. I couldn’t see her, but I knew she was singing her heart out.

She’s standing with Joseph and a baby doll Jesus in the manger, her head slightly bowed. Her big brown doe eyes are shining. She delivers her lines perfectly, even directing her co-star Joseph around the pulpit when he gets a little distracted during their walk through Bethlehem.

A couple of months ago she fell when she was playing at my house, leaving a gash below her lip that required seven stitches. We had planned to celebrate her mom’s birthday that night, but quickly decided to reschedule. On the way home from her four hour ordeal in the emergency room, with a big swollen lip, she proclaimed, “Mom, I just want to go home, take off these bloody clothes and have a party.”

The chapel is bright with the light of the Sunday afternoon outside. I hear the “tap, tap, tap” of the angel’s cardboard wings brushing against each other as they sit closely on the steps. Every few minutes an angel, or a sheep, or a shepherd spots their parents in the audience and starts waving frantically. You can almost hear the “whirrrrr” of the dozens of video cameras on the balcony above.

She calls me Ya Ya. She came up with that name when she was a baby and it stuck. On vacation this summer, she and I put the pedal to the metal at the bumper cars, proclaiming we were “The Ladies of Lightening McQueen!” Then we hit the log flume three times in a row, in the rain.

The pageant is ending and everyone is singing “Silent Night.” Mary has her hands folded in front of her, she’s kneeling on the floor by the manger. Her face is beautiful.

The audience of parents and relatives are watching a small girl, with an angelic little face, in a light blue robe.

With tears of pride in my eyes…I see one tough cookie named Mary.

Merry Christmas!

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