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Twenty years ago today (17 years after the above picture was taken, if we are to go by the number of candles on the cake because there is certainly no label on the photo to go by) we left for the hospital a family of three and came home the next day a family of four. I could tell stories about the hours of agonizing labor, the difficult delivery, the sleepless nights, the endless crying, but I’d be lying and no one is interested in hearing about easy births or easy babies. If it helps, I hated being pregnant, it was an unbearably hot summer, and I couldn’t convince anyone to supply me with drugs during the birth and delivery, even though I recall suggesting that perhaps a mild tranquilizer, at the very least, might be a pleasant diversion.

While I usually trot out my easy-birth stories only to pregnant women who are being terrorized by all the mothers who are only too happy to volunteer their horror stories of forty-seven-and-three-quarters hours of hard labor every time they see a young pregnant woman, here’s a confession that puts me at risk for being the target of universal and incredulous animosity: After just a few hours of labor (although I’ve certainly had more fun in the same time span), she slept through the night from the day we brought her home. I could have left her alone in a corner on a table for a couple of weeks at a time and she wouldn’t have complained as long as she got fed every couple of days. I vividly remember the first time I said “no” to her because at the time I realized that I’d never had to say it before: She was nearly three years old. She was simply too easy and I was convinced that we’d have to pay for it at some point, like the teenage years. But I was wrong and those years are officially behind us now so, until one of us wakes up to an ax to the head, I’m going to assume that we’re past potential difficult years.

When she was about a year old and her six-year-old brother was in a reclining wheelchair because he’d been hit by a car and had two casts, one of which prevented him from sitting upright (hence, the wheelchair), she was lying next to him in the chair when we were school shopping at the mall (first grade must go on, automotively broken arms and legs notwithstanding – Mommy needs her Me time). She was wearing the new shoes we’d just bought and the soles had never been walked on. A woman walked by, did a double take, and very nearly screamed: “Oh my god!” That seemed a bit of an overreaction because he didn’t look that bad in his casts. She’d thought that the poor little boy with the big casts and the scabs on his face had his doll next to him and she was quite surprised when that doll sat up.

Two years old here. Yes, two. That’s all her hair and that’s natural curl on the bottom, and this is what happens when you leave children alone in a corner on a table for a couple of weeks. That, or they get hit by a car and end up with a broken arm and leg. As she’s grown the urge to mark herself has manifested itself in a more permanent way:

Three years old and already demonstrating an aversion to sleeves:

Here in the US the 21st birthday is a big deal (most of her grade-level friends are turning 21 this year) because it’s the first time a person can legally order a drink and so, of course, the first time a person experiences the affects of alcohol. In Chile, where she is now, that this is not her 21st birthday is of no concern because the drinking age is 18 (she said that in some clubs it’s 18 for women, 21 for men). I trust her, though, to not take advantage of that because “when in Rome . . .” be damned, it’s not legal where she comes from and she is, as I might have mentioned, a good kid. Why, no, I haven’t looked at her Facebook page. Why do you ask?

Twenty years later and we’re not on the same continent, which is what I’d wished for both of my children when they were born. As long as they come back.

Happy birthday, sweetie. Thank you for being you and we love you.