You are twenty eight tomorrow. Twenty eight!
I remember your twenty first birthday. And before that, the day you first left for Colorado. I thought it would only be a few months, a seasonal internship.
Even earlier, the day you called me from Target. “I’m free,” you said. Your year of cross country. Your driver’s license and graduation. Your emergency appendectomy and volleyball games and love of horses and dogs and iguanas. Your Australian Outback birthday party. Your favorite pajamas and the way you loved to smell like vanilla bath products and how tireless you were in the pool. My little bronze fish. The summer you made a habitat for roly polys and wrote a care schedule that included “freedom time.” How precisely and imaginatively you played Pokemon and Zoo Tycoon. How fiercely protective you have always been of your little sister. Your first day of Kindergarten. Your first wobbly steps on that red carpet in our second apartment.
Of course I remember so vividly first seeing your delicate self and holding you and nursing you. That first night was perfect. You were perfect.
I remember the terrifying day I first learned I was pregnant and then the thrilling night a few months later when I had that vivid dream of your beautiful face, yet unseen. That dream was accurate; you were soon born looking exactly as it showed me, and it was only the beginning of vivid dreams about you. I have dreamt of you more than anyone in my life. Just a few weeks ago I had a very specific and encouraging dream about you that I have only told one person. I would love to tell you about it. The details have been shimmering in my body.
I also remember every separation, both small and brief like the first day of school or a difficult drop off at day care or your Dad’s house. Certainly the longer, more traumatic goodbyes are etched in my memory.
I remember how it felt to hope and pray and worry all those years. I still feel these in cycles but have learned to worry less, to instead trust and imagine you as happy as possible.
I have so many beautiful memories of reuniting with you. I will forever be buoyed by the immense, overwhelming joy of seeing you happy and in your element.
Many years ago I glanced at a belief system which holds that not only are human souls eternal, which means that each of us has always existed somewhere and could be born to anyone, at any time; but also that children choose their parents. I don’t know how to reconcile that.
Occasionally someone will ask me how long it has been since I have seen you, and I have to really think. Not because I don’t care or keep track, but because in a very literal sense you are always with me. I probably think about you more than anyone in my life.
You are the first person I pray for every day. You are the first person my thoughts find in a quiet moment. Alone with our animals all day long, I talk to them about you. I make sure that Dusty and Chanta especially hear your name plenty, for when you come home.
I still listen to music you shared with me in Colorado, mostly Skrillex while running. If I cook something you might like, your slim body and enormous brown eyes are with me in the kitchen. I imagine you getting all worked up about the ingredients and aroma but getting full after barely half a plate, ha!
Anything with a spiral shape belongs to you because you were once so passionate about the beauty of the Fibonacci Sequence.
When I hear anyone tell stories of Colorado, I think possessively, that is hers. You will always be Colorado to me. Snowball fights in April, under moonlight on Trail Ridge Road, hiking to Gem Lake and Angel Pass, through wildflowers and innumerable trees. Living with bears but not worrying because Bridget has it under control. Remodeling your first cabin. It was tiny and perfect and strong, just like you.
I keep photos of you close as well as childhood toys and clothes. I use your patchwork twin quilt all the time but might need to stop, because it is threadbare now. I stopped buying gifts for you at holidays only because I think rationally of where you are in life now and realize I have no idea what you need anymore. A stack of gifts sits unopened in the Apartment closet. But I still have the urge to shower you with gifts every Christmas and every birthday. A basketful of treats at Easter. I would so truly love to watch movies with you and cook daal again and let you paint the Apartment for me this winter. A mural of your own imagining.
You occupy so much space in my heart, and have so constantly for more than twenty eight years, that the cold hard “fact” of not being in your life right now feels bizarre and unreal. So when people ask me, I fish for the answer and add up the months. I feel the nausea. Sometimes shame too, because how could a mother survive being apart from her firstborn this long? Sometimes fear, both that you are better off without me and that you are not. Two awful possibilities. I always return to Love and Hope.
Is time elastic for you?
I believe firmly that it is, and that Love stretches and fills the space, the calendar, in weird ways I can barely comprehend, let alone explain.
Had someone told me when I first dreamed of your face that a time would come that I didn’t see you in the flesh for this long, I… Well I cannot say what I would have done, but it would have been incomprehensible to me. It still is, and yet.
You have proven your independence and your inner fire so many times, in ever more daring and beautiful ways. You have survived more pain, abuse, close calls, and disappointment than most people know, and I am sure there is much no one knows at all. But there is also a wealth of Joy and experiences we would all love to hear about.
Jocelyn, you are finally past so much. You are so loved, not just me but by a big family who misses you. You are so filled with talent and strength and beauty. This world was made infinitely better when you joined it. You have a terrifying life force for which I have always been grateful. Now more than ever.
I trust that you have made a beautiful and genuine home for yourself. I trust that if you are dating anyone, you feel like you can be yourself with them and are receiving all the love and respect in the world. You are so good at making friends and maintaining community. I trust that your friends appreciate that they have in their midst one of this world’s finest artists, most loyal companions, and smartest adventurers. I trust that you are doing work that brings you more money than you need so you can play and explore and enjoy your life. I trust that Bridget still loves to hike and that she still fetches rocks. I miss her too.
If your thoughts turn to me, to home, to anyone here, may they be warm and strong and feel good. A woman should always feel most at home with herself, of course, but I pray that you feel at home here again too, in your own time. May your memories and curiosities about Home assure you that you are safe here, that you are only loved, and that a lot has happened in the past few years to bring peace, healing, and understanding. Room for life to grow for everyone.
I hope someone is helping your birthday feel extra special this year. You deserve it.
I love you so much, baby.
Happy 28th birthday!