A daughter blossoms

The jasmine is getting ready to bloom in my front yard and the Carolina wrens have come back to nest in a nook above our front door.

I love the feel of spring, a time of nature’s gentle reawakening before the fire-breathing beast of summer makes its appearance.

It’s a season when fresh spring dresses make my two daughters look catalog-perfect before the rips, stains and growing tummies force me to pull out the give-away box again.

But in recent years, spring has also been a reminder for me that as the seasons surely come and go like clockwork, life is not nearly so certain.

When my daughter Meredith was a newborn, I took her out into our yard to see the blooming jasmine. I told her that each year it would magically come back for her birthday on May 2. She slept through this first mother-daughter-nature bonding moment, but I didn’t mind.

The next year I carried her out to the twist of green vines and white flowers and picked one of the blooms, holding it to her nose. She smiled a bit and she seemed to know it was something special. By then . . . I knew she was, too diagnosed with physical and cognitive delays as a result of an underdeveloped brain.

We got the diagnosis on the phone on an unusually cold winter evening in early December.

Each December I still shed mental tears over that moment when I aged 50 years in five minutes.

I didn’t know what to expect then, but Meredith would not walk for several more years or utter a word till she was 4.

I could dwell on her delayed development, but with the arrival of spring, I merely have to take Meredith outside to see her metamorphosis.

“Watch this, Mama!” has become her newest phrase and she repeats it over and over again as she walks all over our yard. It seems this year she has found new endurance and strength in her legs.

It still gives me goosebumps to see my little girl moving and talking at the same time.

I love how she and her 2-year-old sister Caroline can find an afternoon’s worth of entertainment in the piles of fallen oak leaves and the “surprise” flowers that pop up after a spring rain.

Perhaps spring is a metaphorical break for me. It’s lovely proof that the harshness of a winter memory does melt with the arrival of April.

If Meredith were a baby bird, she’d be leaving the nest about now. Thankfully we humans get to stick around for more instruction. Things aren’t as simple as being able to survive the elements and reproduce. We have the opportunity to stop and smell the flowers and have a conversation about them.

Sometimes I think that Meredith’s understanding of these subtleties is far more important than a perfect gait or complete sentences.

On Friday, for the sixth year, the two of us went into the yard to remember another birthday. So happy birthday, Meredith. The jasmine is blooming again and so are you.

This story first appeared in the Austin American-Statesman. Sarah Barnes owns the copyright. Please contact Sarah for any use of this column.

Sarah Barnes
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