Just like the bad stuff in life, you never really can never really predict the good stuff like this, can you?
On the rare occasion that I'm driving with my mother in Providence she'll point out the walk-up apartment on Angell St. where I was conceived. My response has typically been "eeww" because it seems to be about sex, but it's not, or at least not much. It's about two loving, optimistic, just-married 22-year-olds, just-finishing college, wanting to be parents. I understand it now. I did the exact same thing 22 years later, about ten blocks north off of Hope Street.
Sometimes all that just turns out so much better than you'd even dreamed.
For us, that person is Caitlin.
Cait was born at almost the end of my first semester of grad school. She came a little early. I missed one final. My cousin Bridget lived with us and had just graduated early from high school in Providence so we moved to Coventry and set up house off Lake Tiogue. We were each in school and working and happy to have Caitlin join our lives. We made a nursery. We had a baby shower. I breezed through the pregnancy. I was excited as heck.
When I got to grad school I found out they thought it was such a big deal that they encouraged all students to hold off on children until after graduation (for me that would have been 7 years), or take time off. There was no part-time. I pondered this for a little while, and then decided to just ignore it. I hid the pregnancy until November. She was born a month later. They adjusted their program to fit us. It all worked out fine.
|Luis and Caitlin|
She was colicky. She beat her father to a pulp on days he was home and I was at school. She was desperate to get to school, so we started her at four. She was the youngest in her classes. She did fantastic from the start. She's rolled with being in a big family far better than many of her younger siblings, even though much was expected of her as the oldest child. She was scared of the dark, and was happy to share a room and even a bed with her sisters until she was a teenager. She surpassed me in baking skill by age twelve. She ran cross-country at Law. Taught kindergartners in Sunday School. Cooked at the Beth-El homeless shelter. Got her Bachelor's degree at Southern and her Master's Degree at Sacred Heart and is getting her Behavior Analyst certification at St. Joseph's. Traveled to Paris, Belize, Costa Rica. Woke her sisters up in Disneyworld by jumping on their beds singing "Good Morning Baltimore!" with a hairbrush. She works with autistic students at the Connecticut Center for Child Development, and at a group home for Youth Continuum. She has a boyfriend, many friends, and a family who loves her. Sometimes she comes by to just give me a kiss, or to henna my hair, or for a family dinner. Sometimes to help make dinner. She and her boyfriend Luis babysit when Mark and I go away on trips, taking over all our tasks while keeping their own lives going. Of course there's been challenges but all so much worth it. We are blessed many times over with this girl.
|Ciara and Caitlin|
But none of this really describes how the world has changed because she's in it. If I were to calculate all the lives she's made better just by existing, it would have to be in the thousands. Classmates she befriended, in Rhode Island and then Connecticut. Teachers she charmed. Coaches she made proud. Kids she babysat and played with. Sisters she slept over for on Christmas Eve so they could open stockings together. Friends she baked for when they were low. Clients and students she helped through bad days, and good. Customers during her years at the Milford Starbucks that she cheered with her sweetness and her silly. Fellow students she helped with her smarts. Waitresses she tipped well. Retail clerks she made laugh. Family she's loved.
|Luis and Cait with Lizzy|
It seems, in the end, that her father and I have had just this tiny little part in who she's become, like when she was born we rolled a boulder-full of life energy down a hill and she's picked up speed and karma all along the way, becoming this incredible person that has immersed herself so fully in life, touched so many other lives, and been affected by so many other people that in the end you can just sit back in wonder, and think "wow." I'm lucky I was here just to watch.
Life is unexpectedly grand sometimes, remarkable almost beyond words, and there's no better evidence than Caitlin.
Happy birthday, baby.
I love you,