Michelle and I have been friends since pursuing a love of photography back in college in 1999. Among some of the other passions we mutually worshipped at the time included but were not limited to: music, cheap beer, Taco Bell, 80’s dance night, cute boys and cigarettes. After college graduation and through life’s rhythmic ebb and flow, we were separated, reunited, separated and then reunited once again. It was during our most recent “reunion” more than two years ago that I discovered she was pregnant. I suppose part of me expected to see her as the camera-toting gal with the cigarette gingerly secured in-between her lips who could bust a move to classic Depeche Mode. Who I saw before me was a glowing, waddling, slow-moving mother-to-be with a big belly and a fervent anticipation in the bright of her eyes. This was not the Michelle I had left back in Tampa. This was not the girl I had shared all night dance and beer benders with “back in the day”…no. Though she was no longer that girl, the woman I received in exchange was far better.
Seeing Michelle transition into motherhood with the nervous naïveté of a first time mom was both endearing and heartbreaking. Never before had I seen my college friend care with such adoration, patience and thoughtful concern for another. I had always known she had a kind and loving heart, but to bear witness to the awakening of her motherly instincts was an entirely delightful surprise. As little Emma grew into the crime fightin’, hell raisin’, tobacco chewin’, rule breakin’ Ninj you read about on this blog, so did Michelle’s maternal confidence and self-assurance. It could not be any more evident in Emma’s poise and stride that she is a happy and determined little being. Graced with a kind demeanor and a self-sufficient attitude that is both comical and admirable, it is no wonder she is the product of two loving parents who are clearly getting something right.
Michelle and I spend a good deal of our days inventing fictitious scenarios in which characters and places are terrorized by Emma’s alter ego lovingly known as Da Ninj. These stories have the capacity to make us break into spontaneous fits of hysterics, coloring our otherwise gray, insipid days at our desk jobs a bright shade of Valentino red. If Emma only knew, she would downright disown us both for having so many laughs at her expense. But to know this little girl is to love and embrace all her antics, curiosities and tom foolery. Given her lively personality it was no wonder that Michelle had an overabundance of reservation about leaving Emma in our care this past Saturday evening. She feared not that we would care for her improperly…rather she feared that Emma would send us running to the hills, knees quivering in fear of the wrath of Da Ninj.
Of course it should not come as a surprise that Emma behaved beautifully. It was a joy hearing her speak random Spanish vocabulary words at the sight of them during our viewing of The Princess and the Frog. When hearts popped up on the screen she would excitedly announce, “Corazon!”…or when the moon appeared, she would point to the TV and say “Luna”. She gave no hint of fuss or annoyance when we turned off the TV to sit for dinner even though the movie had not ended. Emma gladly pulled out her chair and sat down to eat her meal like a little lady. She even waited patiently while I went to the kitchen to get her a second helping of rice and beans. You might not think anything of it, but for a two year old child, this shows incredible restraint. Once she finished her dinner, she insisted on bringing her dish and utensils to the kitchen so that I could put them in the sink. If she was taller, I’m certain she would have placed them in there herself.
Emma colored, sang, rode her Goofy stuffed animal as if it were Bullseye from Toy Story, and gave us spontaneous hugs and kisses. Surprisingly, she did not seem interested in terrorizing Stinky and Da Diggs, our resident furry feline chitlins whose claws we had trimmed earlier in the day in preparation for Emma’s arrival. Aside from an initial gentle stroking of Stinky’s fur minutes after her entrance, she seemed rather disinterested in both cats. Stinky might have hissed at her a couple of times when she ran past him like a bat outta hell. Digger on the other hand made sporadic appearances. Being the true ‘scaredy cat’ that he is, he spent most of the evening hiding in the bathroom behind the safety of the tub’s vinyl curtain.
Though my husband Brian can become a bit awkward around kids, I could easily tell that Emma was in his good graces. Aside from her charm, she happens to be a very good listener and would heed Brian’s request to back up from the TV since she enjoys watching television two inches from the screen. Of course we both had to repeat this numerous times throughout the evening as she was convinced she was pulling a fast one on us by slowly creeping up to the screen in tiny increments, as if certain we wouldn’t notice. How can you not love the kid for trying?
As the night progressed I could tell Emma was tiring though she consistently fought her sleep. Sheer exhaustion finally prevailed causing her little eyes to rest in peaceful slumber after we had read a handful of her books several times. Watching her sleep in such stillness and with such careless abandon gave me pause to think about how amazing it is that she came to be and how we are all the better because of it.
Michelle and I will always have the memories and the photos documenting our days of carefree youth, boundless energy and unadulterated freedom. Those days will forever be a part of our shared history. But the beauty of the present is the exciting story currently in the making as we witness all that unfolds in the sound of Emma’s laughter, the new vocabulary words she carefully pronounces and the promise of the love that she freely shares from that tiny little heart. I know she’s not mine, but if I had a child, I’d want one just like her. Kudos, Michelle and Anthony. You have plenty reason to be proud.
And as for Da Ninj…well, we’ll just have to see where life on the lam will lead her. No doubt she’ll be breakin’ hearts, breakin’ kneecaps and takin’ no prisoners.