Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Pearl in the Oyster

Last week, my eldest daughter was telling everyone that she was eight. In fact, she did not turn eight until this Tuesday, Valentine's Day.

So I told Sophia, "Hey, don't rush things, baby. You aren't eight yet. You only have one week left to be seven. You will never be seven again. What do you want to do with your last week as a seven year old?"

Sophia, who is usually up for these silly ideas of mine said she'd get back to me. That night she said one idea she had was running through the house yelling, "I'm seven! I'm seven!" This she indeed did, several times, in fact. But I didn't think that was quite enough.

So we ate oysters. Raw ones.

Both my girls reject normal foods like grilled chicken and green herbs, but eat bizarre things like unagi and grilled lotus root and spicy tuna rolls and calamari with the legs on. (We had homemade sushi for her eighth birthday, actually, which I'm sure to write about soon.) But never had Sophia sampled the delectable, fresh, cucumber-y sweetness of an oyster slurped right out of its shell.

My mom and I had taken Sophia to The Grove in Los Angeles for lunch and shopping, and as we ordered our grilled Ruebens in the Farmer's Market, we spotted a woman with a plate of oysters on the half shell. I bought us half a dozen, and Sophia ate her first two raw oysters on the last day she was seven. It must be confessed that she chewed them way longer than necessary and at one point almost spit one out into her napkin. But she got through it, and received many approving smiles and thumbs ups from the adventurous diners around us.

I believe in celebrating. The beginning of things. The end of things. And though one of my instincts on my children's birthdays is to go cry into my coffee cup in the laundry room because they are growing up too fast, celebrating the last day of the year they are seven, or four, or -- chills just thinking about it -- fourteen, seems a much better impulse to cultivate.

And I have to say, I'm doing a pretty good job.

One of my best mom qualities is this: when I see my kids are up for an adventure, I give them enough slack in the rope to go after it. And I create these silly, memorable moments when I can, praying that they keep being willing to follow my lead. This morning, Livie and I did the Twist in the aisle of Trader Joe's because a good song was playing. The fact is, that life is often like an oyster: ugly, messy, hard to swallow. But often, also, even the slimy, icky parts of it have a sweet aftertaste. And sometimes, even, that ugliness hides a pearl. My girls and I are seeking that sweetness, those surprises.

Sophia, at eight, is still the child I would have designed for myself: funny, smart, kind, brave, silly, beautiful, affectionate, and challenging. In fact, God designed her, but I congratulate myself that so far, I have mainly gotten out of His way and not messed her up. Happy Birthday, to the larger-than-life pearl in our family's oyster.

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