I like to say I knew her when.
I knew her when her bangs were cut straight across with sewing scissors because the idea of spending real money on a haircut for a kid seemed outlandish to me.
I knew her when she would dangle upside down from a metal bar at the playground, do a flip and land on her feet on the concrete while I covered my eyes and waited for the absence of crying.
I knew her when she would sit across from me, a single mom with a single daughter, while we ate dinners made with a lot of macaroni and tomato soup.
I knew her when she would do her homework in the bathroom while I sat in the tub so paralyzed by distress and depression that I could only go to work, make dinner, and hide in the tub every night drinking wine and smoking cigarettes.
I knew her when we crammed the remnants of our apartment into our Toyota and we drove to our new flat, her holding on to the door because it wouldn’t close, the living room lamp and a laundry basket full of clothes on her lap.
I knew her when she decided to end a boy’s constant teasing by punching him in the stomach and I knew her when she was selected by her favorite teacher to give the graduation speech at the end of 8th grade.
I knew her when she became big sister to two Nicaraguan babies, knew her when she changed their diapers, rubbed their backs and sang them songs.
I knew her when she got her first job, her first boyfriend, and her first car; I knew her when she took off, first for college, and then Spain and London, New York, Washington, Palm Springs and San Diego, and she accomplished many things, and we grew apart and then together many times.
So I should have been able to predict what she would be like as a mother. Who would know her better than me, I ask?
But it came as a surprise that no matter how tired she is nor how loud her twin babies are crying, she will smile at them as if seeing them for the first time, as if every moment she ever lived brought her to the moment when she would smile at her baby boys. She looks in their eyes and talks to them, every word is lilting and beautiful and meant just for them. Her gladness is constant and unfailing. Every day is like that. Every time.
I’m in awe of this. I wish I had been a mother to her like that, a mother who was so glad. I wish all children would have such mothers.
It is luck, nothing else, that has allowed me to see all of this from the uneven bangs to the baby boys and to be able, at last, to be what I never let myself be while she was growing up. Glad.