Happy Birthday, Betsy!

We are all still slightly weather shocked. Not only did we experience one lovely spring-like day, we have had almost a week of beautiful weather. No heavy coats, no cold car seats, no shivering against chill dampness. It was a great weekend, and even better, I spent it in Chicago with our oldest daughter. The days were just stuffed with delight. There have been other times that I’ve “weathered” Chicago at this time of year, and the thermometer struggled to get above zero. I have never been to any arctic areas of the globe for comparison, but when a bitter wind comes shearing in off Lake Michigan and knifes its way through city canyons, it has the power to knock air out of the lungs. But, not this weekend. People flooded outside, lifting their faces to the sun, pushing strollers, walking dogs, and pedaling bikes. In an unprecedented move, neighborhood pubs and bistros threw open the doors to their outdoor spaces and laughter and happy conversation bubbled over into the streets. 
For some, the Navy Pier or the Miracle Mile downtown are the places to go. We love the museums and historical sites and going to the neighborhoods. Lincoln Park and Lincoln Square, Wrigleyville, Old Town, Andersonville, Boystown . . . each has their own personality and is filled with an interesting mix of people of all ethnicities, religions, and identities. 
It’s rare that I can pick out exactly where I am, although some of the locations are becoming familiar. I’m beginning to recognize street names at least. I might not be able figure out exactly where I am at any given time, but it’s all part of the adventure. At least my hostess/guide/daughter does. All I ask is that with each trip – we dine someplace we haven’t been to yet, and fortunately that list is endless. And while I love hitting the sidewalks and poking into quaint little shops and finding things that just have to come home with me – like a sparkly bunny and fox apron, or to be tucked aside for a future gift – the best part of the weekend was spending time with Betsy. Today is her birthday and I am filled with thoughts about her.
 She was the child of our hearts. We wanted her so badly we ached. Before and after she was born, I read every nugget of knowledge I could glean. Now the Internet puts more information out there than a human can possibly absorb and contain. Some of it is false, some anecdotal and useless, and some only serves to alarm and overwhelm. But, oh, to have had more than a couple magazine articles and a handful of pamphlets to explain what was happening inside, and would happen when she was outside. Maybe it really was best that we just went with our intuition. We all made it through.
As a new mother I was at once entranced and terrified. She was fortunate in that she had no siblings to be compared to, no siblings to steal my attention, and unfortunately for the first seven years, no siblings with whom to play. She had cousins to fill that role, luckily, because every kid needs a built-in playmate, it keeps one humble. 
She was perfect, of course. This was a tenet I blissfully held until a preschool open house. I have always been artistic and good with my hands. I assumed, along with all the other gifts she was sure to be blessed with, that cutting shapes out with those stubby little safety scissors would come just as easily to her as it had for me. With bright expectation, I scanned the lineup of sweet little cutout April shower umbrellas, but didn’t see her name . . . until the last one. It was a crude, unrecognizable shape, in places appearing as if it had been torn from the sheet of construction paper, rather than neatly clipped. It was Betsy’s. I couldn’t believe it. This bright, precocious, amusingly articulate child who had told me before she was two that she was going to the state department, had a flaw? I needed fresh air and time to contemplate where I’d gone wrong. Well, of course, there was no mistake made – that’s just who she was. She, like everyone else, is perfectly flawed. When her younger sisters came along, they benefited greatly from Mom’s big teaching moment. 
She was a cautious child – no wonder, I hovered over her, a worrying, maternal drone. In spite of being plagued with asthma and allergies, she developed a self-deprecating sense of humor and often quoted Goofy: “I’m brave, but I’m careful.” But, as she grew and matured she began to challenge herself, to try new things, seek out the unknown, separate from us. When it came time for her to choose a college major, there really was very little doubt about what direction she should go, but in choosing that path there was plenty of risk. We encouraged her to take it, and she did, and it was the way she needed to go. 
When I look at her now, I marvel that the timid, quirky little kid with the skinny legs and big, brown cow eyes is now a beautiful, intelligent, creative, hilarious, outspoken, passionate, talented adult, married to a great guy, living an exciting life in the city, surrounded by a vast network of creative and talented friends. That little girl is still there, she is simply part of the sum of who Betsy has become, who she was destined to be, and yes, she is still brave, braver than I ever will be.  
 

 Elizabeth Morgan and the guys from her band She's Folks

Elizabeth Morgan and the guys from her band She's Folks