One morning I woke from a dream with the feeling that I had just seen my baby daughter for the first time. That was about twenty-six years ago and my girl wouldn’t be born for another year, so she didn’t exist for me yet in any form but the egg that would supply half her genetic material. But later, on the day of her birth exactly twenty-five years ago today, I felt that it really was her that I had conjured up in that dream.
I named her Jasmine, and her stomach was laid onto mine at 12:41 pm on Sunday May 4th 1986. She held her head high, for a newborn, and her eyes were wide open and trained on me. She blinked once or twice in a blasé manner before seeming to decide that the person to my right might have a better idea of what was going on. Recognizing that this wasn’t the case, she turned back to me, and lowered her chin for a moment. A moment later she lifted her face and eyes to me once more and seemed to wait for an explanation of what had just happened, or for me to say something intelligent, or at least interesting. I was in a bit of shock at having just had an entire person come into the world through me, and instead of feeling powerful and capable of just about anything, it occurred to me that I had prepared nothing whatsoever to say to her. Was I supposed to? It hadn’t occurred to me that she would expect words of wisdom, or a song and dance or anything more than my mere presence. After a another minute or two, she laid her cheek against me and remained quiet, but very alert for hours. I think it was a very important thing that on the car ride home later that day, at about 7:00 pm, she was peeping up out of her blankets and her car seat at the trees and sky speeding by through the window above her. Her head kept moving as she tried to focus on the changing scenery, and when her grandfather, who was driving, stopped at traffic lights, her eyes got big as saucers, and her mouth formed a perfect “O.” I knew then that this child would need to be entertained, but I was still in shock and not up to the task. For the next few hours the déja vu pointing to my dream was unshakable. Later on, Jasmine finally got hungry enough to start screaming about it, but until then my dream from the year before gnawed at me as I tried to behave in a motherly fashion in front of familial onlookers, and probed my mind for some missing piece of information that is still, even at this late date, out of my reach.
In the dream, I was in the front passenger seat of a car parked at a gas station. The driver seemed to be off paying for gas and other things at the Quick Mart, while I held a very small baby in my lap. I knew in the dream that she was a girl even though she was wearing a plain t-shirt and diaper, and her hair, although full with glossy dark curls, was too short to telegraph her gender. She was my daughter and obviously less than a month old, but she was telling me to find her other shoe. I felt around under my seat, looked in the other front seat, looked all around the dashboard ledge–but no tiny blue sneaker to match the one on her other foot. She let out an exasperated sigh and told me to try the glove compartment. I tried to open it, but it wouldn’t budge. I told her I needed the key, but I didn’t have it. She shook her little head at me and sighed deeply again. “You know you’re supposed to take care of me,” she said in her tiny but authoritative voice. I said I was sorry. She just stared at me and blinked. I wanted someone to come quickly, as if I could be more intelligent if someone else was around to help, but as I slowly began to wake up, I wanted to spend more time with this portent of my future. I clung to the sight of her beautiful little face even as it disappeared into the ether with its expression of mildly amused disapproval.
In real life, as my baby daughter grew, she liked two things more than anything else. Going bye-bye, and eating. In that order. If she was at home, she demanded to be fed every thirty minutes. (I could have fed triplets on the mother’s milk that she ‘projectiled’ every time I burped her.) If we were out of the house, it took her three hours or more to remember food. My shock at motherhood wore off after those first few weeks and I became her tour guide through life, pointing out cars when we waited for buses at the beginnings of our excursions, and explaining the internal combustion engine to her to the best of my ability, along with the particulars of the life of the long distance trucker. She hung onto every word when I talked to her about all sorts of things while we were out in public (and to quite a few of them when we were at home, especially when I was feeding her) as if she knew that someday she would understand exactly what I was saying, and she could barely wait. I would ask her to repeat things from the time she was barely able to sit up on her own, and she moved her lips and made wonderfully studious expressions to honor my attempts to educate her, and to keep me engaged so I would do it over and over again.
Now Jasmine is a wonderful adult of whom I am very proud. She’s still active and smart, and loves to learn, but for years, of course, she has thought it best that I listen more than I talk. That may be the most important part of “being a mother” or of simply “being a parent,” now that I think of it. As a proud parent, I have many more interesting stories to tell of our adventures together, but I’ve only told this much here because this is her birthday card. She isn’t sentimental about cards and doesn’t care about them. I am sentimental, so this is my compromise. She’ll be happy that I saved a tree, and that she doesn’t have to save this in a drawer. And that it isn’t sappy. I’m happy because today is her birthday, and I got to write this for her. It’s a way of saying that I love her. (Even though she already knows.)