My daughter turned twelve today. In the early morning quiet I thought back over my years with her. The tears my mother and I shed when we first saw the empty crib in that hotel room in China just hours before Arielle was mine. Tears because I really, truly, would have a daughter at long last. Indescribable joy when the thin baby with the huge dark eyes was placed in my arms.
Her hair grew thick and black and her big eyes didn't miss a thing. Even as a baby she carried with her the wisdom of the ages, serious and thoughtful. My little girl spoke in sentences just past her first birthday and could read all the letters of the alphabet before she turned two. She's always loved books and as a toddler would quietly take each one from her shelf and page through it, her little face so intent on learning and understanding. Then she would stack the books neatly beside her as she finished them. They were her treasures.
I think of my little ballerina in her many tutus and later my girl with her black hair braided with red ribbons performing at Chinese New Year. She learned to play piano and entertained us at home with joyful abandon but never enjoyed the recitals. She couldn't bear the thought of making a mistake. Once, as I watched her playing a lively tune, a word of scripture clearly came to my mind, "She's the apple of my eye." God's. And mine.
Her mind is her strength, but with caution and persistent effort she learned to swim and ride a bike. She's never been interested in sports but loves our vegetable garden and has diligently worked beside me year after year, planting, hoeing, harvesting. She has learned to sew and has begun to cook. Oh, there is so much more I want to teach her!
She loves the ocean. Our last trip to the shore I watched her edge further and further from us. Her thoughts were her own as she plunged into the swirling water, alone, but under our watchful eyes. What are your dreams, precious daughter?
The years fly faster and faster and soon she'll soar away too. Wait, please wait! I'm not ready for her to go! She is becoming a beautiful young woman, poised, confident, and never losing her sweet and gentle nature or the ancient wisdom in her eyes. Happy Birthday, Arielle! We love you!