It seems like only yesterday that I held this funny looking, hair-covered, tan baby as she took her first breaths of life.
Today she turns 21.
Where has the time gone? I know it is a question that every parent since the dawn of man has asked, and I suppose it is one of the many burdens that we take to our graves.
She is the first of three children that my wife and I brought into this world, and I can still remember desperately hoping that she would not be born on the same day as her great grandmother. I would quietly bite my tongue when relatives with only good intentions made remarks like “Wouldn’t it be great if the baby came on Grandma Hammond’s birthday?”. I wanted my child to be unique in every way and to make his or her name for themselves. I’d have none of this sharing a birthday talk!
Naturally, Sarah was born on Grandma Hammond’s birthday.
From the moment I first held her I no longer cared what day she called her birthday. At the moment the doctor put her into my arms the petty worries about who else was born on that day vanished. I was holding a living, breathing person that would cut her own path in the world and in doing so help to define my legacy.
I pledged at that moment to forever be there whenever she needed me and to always protect and comfort her as she grew up. I’d make that same pledge for her brother and sister at their births.
Now twenty-one years of moments in time flash through my mind. Synchronized swimming meets, softball games, soccer games, lacrosse games, driving lessons, academic awards ceremonies, college visits, and a Salutatorian speech all are snapshots that I will keep for the rest of my life. Of course they are tempered with things like hair getting caught in a game piece, staples in the top of her head from where a golf club accidentally found its way, a broken leg while playing soccer, and a broken heart from a first love lost.
I can’t imagine going through life without my kids, and Sarah is the one that has had to show us the way.
She’s done a pretty damn good job.
Today represents yet another step into adulthood for the oldest of my offspring. I’m not quite sure why I am so sentimental as twenty-one is merely an age that some government official deemed humans are old enough to drink and live out from under the umbrella of their parents’ guardianship.
It’s funny how life can be. When your children are young you find yourself anxious to reach the next phase in their growth. You want them to become more independent and self-sufficient. Yet, once they mature and achieve the levels of independence that you hoped for, you can’t help but long for the days where you sat in the stands watching in the unbearable heat of an indoor swimming complex while they desperately tried to impress judges during a “synchro play day”. You only want to relive those snapshots in time.
But you can’t.
Instead, you celebrate the fact that they continue to meet new challenges on their own while you sit on the virtual sidelines beaming with pride and awestruck in what they’ve achieved. You are always at the ready to catch them should they fall, but you know that with each passing year they become a little more sure footed.
Sarah continues to break new ground for the Skinner family and next year she’ll graduate from college, becoming the first of our three kids to do so.
For now, we’ll just relish the fact that she is safe and relatively happy and healthy. For a parent, it is pretty much the goal we set out to accomplish.
Happy Birthday Sarah. Stay the course and never look back. If you stumble, we’ll be there to catch you.