On January 22, 2002, I had just returned to my office from my last doctor’s appointment. It was my exact due date, but the baby in my belly wasn’t budging, so the doctor scheduled a cesarean for that Friday, and I went about my day. An hour later, I peed myself. Except I couldn’t make it stop; I was in labor.
Just a few hours later, Avery Clare made her way into the world, and when she left my body, I swear, she took my heart with her. She was named after my grandpa Clarence, the first man I ever really loved, who died when I was 14. Although he didn’t get to meet her, I imagine often how wrapped she would have him. The first night in the hospital, she laid between my legs staring at the ceiling fan. I adorned her head with a big bow and told her, “Chick, I have no idea how I’m going to do this, but we’ll figure it out.”
Being born on her exact due date was only the first sign of how driven Avery Clare would be. From crawling at four months old (to the sound of a crinkling McDonald’s bag, she loved French fries!) to walking just shy of eight months old, she had a steady look of determination on her face at all times. I used to laugh when people would baby talk and coo at her, because she was not the baby who smiled at everyone to appease them. If you were stupid, she looked at you that way. If she loved you, she was all over you. Even at a young age, Avery was transparent with her emotions.
Watching her grow left me awestruck much of the time. No matter the task in front of her, if Avery wanted to accomplish it, you better just consider it done. (Except the dishes and laundry some days, but I digress.) She excelled at soccer, academics, gymnastics, singing, playing the guitar and everything in between.
But Avery’s greatest accomplishment was yet to come, because when she was four and her sister was one, our life changed dramatically. Since then, it’s been a slew of emotions that I can only describe as challenging. No matter what life has thrown us, Avery has continued to be driven and determined to succeed. When I was down, she was the light. When I needed more help than usual because I was finishing a college degree, she picked up the slack. When people hurt her, she was soft enough to feel compassion and strong enough to draw a line in the sand and not allow them to step over.
She’s a good friend. A really good friend. She’s a great big sister (most of the time) she loves and adores her dog, Idabel. She’s kind to the person who doesn’t have any friends, and she’s not afraid to stand up for someone when they are being attacked.
She has a mind of her own and she’s not afraid to march to the beat of her own drum. She’s also stunningly beautiful, an accomplished athlete and can kick my butt in the gym, but those aren’t the things I admire most about her. Avery, you see, has more heart and guts in her pinkie than most people will ever have in their lifetime. She never quits. She doesn’t give up. When life knocks her down, she gets up for more.
Avery, you made me a mom, which was something I never thought I would be good at. You made me a better person than I ever knew I could be. Watching you grow into this 14-year old person has been an exhilarating experience that I wouldn’t trade for all the Mexican food in the world. Even when I’m not proud of your actions (not turning the vent on in the shower, leaving your towel on the floor, leaving the oven on or forgetting to call after school) I’m always, always proud of the young woman you are. Your future is so bright it blinds me, and I’m excited to see the direction you take with your life. The thought of letting you go also terrifies me, but I’m trying. (Notice I didn’t say direction life takes you, because you are always the one in control, never forget.)
Today and forever you are my first-born baby, my heart outside my body, and although words are your love language, there aren’t enough of them to express my adoration for you.
Happy birthday, my Clare Bear!