Wednesday
May162018

Water-resistant

I was amazed that what I needed to survive

could be carried on my back.

And, most surprising of all,

that I could carry it.

-Cheryl Strayed

 

It always bothered me that my Swatch was not really waterproof. It said it was waterproof but the fine print only promised water-resistant to so many meters blah blah fine print. I wanted security; I got legal jargon.

Life is not waterproof. It rains a lot in life. It is messy and awkward and I forgot socks and have blisters. But I continually remind myself that life is a test. It is supposed to be hard and I am supposed to succeed. It is a wet test but I am water-resistant. And isn't the gospel a beautiful umbrella?

 

Painting by Brian Kershisnik. Gratefully used with permission.

Sunday
May132018

Cat's Cradle

Archer loves going to the library and is allowed ten books per trip. There is absolutely no rhyme or reason to how he picks them. He just randomly pulls books from the shelf and when the quota is hit we self-checkout before Everett can throw a hissy fit or Archer stops whispering. We get the heck out and exhaust our wiggles at the library’s park aka death by vertical log steps and slippery inverted log canoe ramp. I am certain a mother did not design that equipment.

Imagine my surprise when I recently read him Cat’s Colors for a bedtime story. It is the greatest randomly-selected bedtime story I have ever read. As a graphic designer I’m a little peeved I didn’t come up with it first.

Cat’s Colors, by Airlie Anderson, is a simple, almost wordless mic drop of a book. Basically this cat walks around a grayscale world and notices something beautiful on every page, something with color. As she pays attention to the beauty around her a small corresponding spot shows up on her coat. (Fur? What do cats have? Can you tell I hate cats and will only ever own a dog?) She notices the reflection in the turquoise pond and gets a turquoise spot. She notices the green leaves on the trees and gets a green spot, etc. At the end of the book this optimistic, glass-half-full cat with rainbow spots walks into her cat home (lair? seriously, I know nothing about cats…) and you realize she’s a mama cat because there are a bunch of gray kittens waiting to nurse. They curl up like a little kitten halo around her. Then it is night and the page is black. In the morning, mama cat leads all her kittens out into the gray world that is waiting for them…and they are rainbow colored!

I cannot get over this book and how perfectly it paints the essence of motherhood.* What moms see, kids become. Anyone can argue the world is gray and dreary but good moms extract opaque, gem-colored pigments from the pall and paint their kids with it.

My mom painted me with nature appreciation, holiday celebration, and love of stationery and stickers. She focused on the good in everyone, was always down for a Sunday drive, and scrubbed tile grout with a toothbrush like no other. She demonstrated through singing that there were multiple ways to harmonize with others; you didn’t have to be two steps down just to get along with someone.

I have colored RE to talk to anyone, to carve out quiet time away from technology, to see the invisible person, to be vulnerable, to hoard office supplies and blank journals, and to eat peanut butter chocolate chip sandwiches when she’s feeling hormonal. Sadly, I tried to pass on world’s-most-anxious-driver but she wouldn’t accept it.

Being a mama cat is the best! Unless it’s a gray day and you can’t see any colors because, say, your 1-year old screamed for so long on Mother’s Day that you couldn’t hold FHE because no one could hear anyone else talk and he only screamed louder if you took the conducting stick that he was bashing on the keyboard out of his pudgy fist. Some days mama cats just say, “Get your kitten booty to bed before I erase your rainbow and make you wish you were a puppy!”

Cheers to all the color-seeking cats who hunt for joy so they can pounce on it, pass it on, and be chased by it.

 

*motherhood/parenting/teaching/leadership/friendship/insert-your-own-interpretation-here

Photo quote from Alma 56:48, photo illustration by Airlie Anderson taken from this book:


Sunday
May062018

Mapmaker

I finished gluing maps to the ceiling of my library. Thanks to ebay and Nook and Cranny I purchased a mixed lot of used maps for under $25. All the places that mean something to me are now permanent gazing fodder from the window seat. I pasted a 1980s Europe outlining Yugoslavia, where my paternal grandfather's line is tied. The sprawling U.S.S.R. claims missionary Greg's Novosibirsk. Vietnam to honor my dad's service, Wyoming for our cabin and Mother Bear's birth, New Mexico for my parents. Missouri for my deciduous childhood. France for my favorite family trip. Israel for Jesus. Manhattan, Colorado, Utah. The topographic world with its long Andes spine and Sahara bald spot. A giant sailing ship, too. I find maps mesmerizing. The artistry involved, the color coding, the tiny fonts and hairline strokes. Correctly refolding an unfolded map is easy thanks to the notes I folded in junior high.

Gloria Scovil gave me two poems last year. One in an envelope sealed with a red foil heart sticker tucked in the front door on Valentine's Day, and one just before I moved. They are both by Alexander McCall Smith.

Our tiny planet, viewed from afar, is a place of swirling clouds

And dimmish blue, Scotland though lodged in all our hearts

Is invisible at that distance, not much perhaps,

But to us it is our all, our place, the opposite of nowhere;

Nowhere can be seen by looking up

And realizing with shot, that we really are very small;

You would say, yes we are, but never overcompensate,

Be content with small places, the local, the short story

Rather than the saga; take pleasure in private jokes,

In expressions that cannot be translated,

In references that can be understood by only two or three,

But which speak with such eloquence for small places

And the fellowship of those whom you know so well

And whose sayings and moods are as familiar

As the weather; these mean everything,

They mean the world, they mean the world.

This first poem is not about Scotland, it’s about American Fork and Pacific Drive 1st; they were my world. That small place was my all. I drove from American Fork to my new house countless times as we were building. Waiting for the Smith's light to turn green, with the mountain in front of me, I'd often feel a form of melancholy that I didn't know one person ahead of me but I knew almost everyone behind me. I realized how important knowing people is to knowing a place. I realized I hate being a foreigner.

Nine months have passed. Nine months of forging trails and dropping bread crumbs in the name of cartography. Nine months of sharpening my colored pencils and demarcating comfort zones. Now I stall at the red light and smile. Layered in the upland's strata of neighborhoods I spy the rooftops of friends. For all my Lewis and Clarking I've found nuggets in every hollow. This mountain is a gold mine—and I've only scouted the south side. 

Although they are useful sources

Of information we cannot do without,

Regular maps have few surprises: their contour lines

Reveal where the Andes are, and are reasonably clear

On the location of Australia, and the Outer Hebrides;

Such maps abound; more precious, though

Are the unpublished maps we make ourselves,

Of our city, our place, our daily world, our life;

Those maps of our private world

We use every day; here I was happy, in that place

I left my coat behind after a party,

That is where I met my love; I cried there once,

I was heartsore; but felt better round the corner

Once I saw the hills of Fife across the Forth,

Things of that sort, our personal memories,

That make the private tapestry of our lives.

Old maps had personified winds,

Gusty figures from whose bulging cheeks

Trade winds would blow; now we know

That wind is simply a matter of isobars;

Science has made such things mundane,

But love – that at least, remains a mystery,

Why it is, and how it comes about

That love’s transforming breath, that gentle wind,

Should blow its healing way across our lives.

This second poem is here, now, on the edge of a bluff where the wind blows in every direction. Despite knowing good people and even making a few dear friends it still feels very unpublished up here. Have you ever tried to weave a tapestry in the wind? It’s hard. Every day I want to quit exploring and go back to Scotland and every day I want to trailblaze and personalize this mountain. It's a windy tug of war that cuts like a knife and then softly soothes.

I don’t know why I still ache when I leave Costco and pass my old turn to come home. I wasn’t expecting to miss the aromatic punch of lilac and Russian olive that wafted through every screen of my old house. I miss the sound of basketballs bouncing on the street. These peripheral memories are time stamps marking a period of my life the same way sunroofs, thunderstorms, and drumsticks remind me of being a kid. My dad carved a whole fryer every other Sunday for chicken and rice; I always got the drumstick but Dad dubbed it the “drumbone.” I can still see him standing in front of the kitchen sink carving methodically while I ate my cereal at the breakfast table.

I’m not entirely sure who I can trust, who I can walk through spider webs with to the cemetery at night when I need to vent, but there is no shortage of candidates. I’m starting to honk and wave at recognized cars, bump into people at Smith’s, and chat at the community mailbox aka the water cooler. It feels like a major victory to have inside jokes and no filter with my 5:30 a.m. walking partner. I won the neighbor lottery; I sleep soundly knowing what goodness resides across our shared mulch bed. I have high hopes someone will walk into my house without knocking in the years ahead.

I am trying to have faith in what can be even though it’s so easy to love what was. Leigh Hunt said, "There are two worlds; the world that we measure with line and rule, and the world that we feel with our hearts and imagination." I suspect I will always live in both worlds no matter where I live.

Sunday
Apr292018

Impression

 

"For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men. For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding."

Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 31:3 

 

I was born with an inherent curiosity toward creation. I've always wanted to know how things were made; I'm a tinker fairy. What follows is the account of a moment that was thirty years in the making.

I think it started with Sesame Street. I'm certain everyone my age watched Sesame Street as a kid as there were no other options. My favorite segments were the snippets filmed in factories with assembly lines demonstrating how bell-shaped birdfeeders, crayons, and trumpets were made.

I dipped my first candle in summer school and subsequently took note of glass blowing, yarn spinning, butter churning, and other crafts of olde. Watching my mom pin, cut, piece, and sew Suzette’s faux Gunne Sax hot pink and black gown was mesmerizing. So was the way she crimped pie crusts on Thanksgiving Eve.

When I was young postage stamps were sold in gummed, perforated sheets. You had to rip one off and lick the back to activate the glue. I took a piece of construction paper and poked a grid of holes with a push pin from my bulletin board until I had made a fake sheet of stamps. I drew a flag on each front and stuck a piece of rolled tape on each back. They ripped off and acted like real stamps. I felt like a genius.

I unglued a cereal box to lay it completely flat and examine its pre-folded shape. I began noticing small pink, blue, yellow, and black squares on the hidden edges of printed materials. I similarly dissected envelopes to see what shape they were born with. I studied the ridges inside a piece of cardboard and turned curl ribbon into ringlets with my fingernail. I hoarded snippets of carbon paper for personal experiments and tried to make my own post-it notes with strips of clear contact paper on the back of paper squares. I took an early interest in calligraphy but could not make a quill from a blue jay feather. Hand lettering painted on storefront windows shouted at me.

When I cheated at Duck Hunt on original Nintendo (duh, gun touching the screen) I put my eye next to the glass. Every tiny dot on the TV was made up of three tinier dots: one red, one green, and one blue. It confused me that red, green, and blue could make all the colors I saw because Mrs. Epps taught the 5th graders all you need to paint anything is red, yellow, and blue. The magic of mixing paint was fireworks inside my young mind; infinite rainbows from three primary colors and black and white. Add the satisfactory swishing of a dirty brush in a Mason jar and tapping it on the rim as if to make a toast and I was in heaven. My affinity for art continuously emerged with age.

Most nights my dad read the Columbia Daily Tribune on the front steps between concrete planters spilling pink impatiens. Occasionally I'd notice the colored part of the grocery ad looked odd. I could see different layers of color, like the item had a colored shadow. It seemed like a mistake.

I soaked squares of dry cotton in my mom's Oster blender and whizzed them to a pulp before pressing the strained sludge onto screens that dried in the sun. Paper! I could make (rustic) paper! I began noticing the quality and texture of pages everywhere. Book order books had the cheapest paper.

In early morning Seminary I discovered there were strings placed methodically throughout the pages of my Bible. I peeled back the finished edge of my Bible's spine and observed the many folded sections of pages all stacked together to make a book. I couldn't figure out how the strings were laced but I could see them as clear as day.

Freshman year at BYU I took Printmaking from Royden Card. Woodcut, linocut, embossing, engraving, etching, aquatint, lithograph, intaglio. In-tall-eee-oh. What a word. It was a revolution of techniques. The deliberation and steps required to create one little illustration were unimaginable. This class was like potato stamping at Girls' Camp but through a wormhole at light speed.

I learned the anatomy of a letter and the symphony of a font in Typography with Mark Wadsworth; at last I understood why my favorite letter since I was a kid was the looptail version of lowercase g. Ampersand, em dash, ligature? Nice to formally meet you.

Junior year I scored a coveted spot in Bookbinding with Chris McAfee. It was the tiny class I sliced the tip of my middle finger off in and the class that answered my Seminary string query. After my fingertip was stitched back on I learned the folded sections of pages were called "signatures" and the string marked the middle of each one. I learned four ways to sew a book together and discovered the proper names of things I'd always noticed but never known the words for: Davey board, clamshell boxes, endpapers, round and flat spines. I mastered the coptic stitch with a curved quilting needle; a skill I have used six times on six Durkobooks. I learned that PVA washed out of jeans and therefore wiped my slimy bone folder on my leg as many times as needed when scoring and wrapping marbled Italian paper around a cover. I loved Bookbinding more than any other class I had ever taken.* Learning how books were made from scratch was a recipe I'd been searching for my whole life.

The next semester I took Letterpress from Headmaster Heidelberg. My puzzle-loving mind welcomed the challenge of upside-down and backward movable type all organized by demand in a California job case. Tweezing incredulously thin punctuation was harder than grabbing the Adam’s apple stem in Operation. I controlled leading with actual bars of lead. Gutenberg and Ben Franklin were my shoulder angels as I rolled ink. Let us be uniform. Let us avoid blobs. I held my breath as each sheet of paper was pulled up from its blackened rest. The imprint of type into paper was a beautiful fossil I created again and again. The creation never got old; every embedded outline was a miracle with meticulous focus behind it.

I took Poster Design as part of my BFA requirements. I learned how to silk screen. I mixed and applied gradients by hand and discovered clear varnish. A decade later Google taught me how to freezer paper stencil on t-shirts since I didn't have a silk screen set up in real life (but I did have an x-acto knife and surgeon hands).

I got a student design job in BYU’s Press Building and cut across the floor enough times to fall in love with the perfume of ink and hot paper. There was a small balcony above the action with a vending machine and a short couch. Many catnaps were stolen above the deafening and methodical spinning of a running press, the sound of which was a heartbeat to my being. The bindery and it’s guillotine chops echoed from the trimming table. At last I was able to touch all the papers with their pounds and points: vellum, pearl, felt, velvet, matte, gloss, linen. Text and cover, coated and uncoated, it was all making sense. My paper petting zoo had amassed so many more animals than the stash of astrobright and résumé samples I'd taken from Kinko's when I was eight.

Education and experience were illuminating. I could finally solve my own art problems! No longer were there blank labels on things I wanted to identify. I had terms and definitions and hands-on experiences to verbalize the visual masterpieces I'd wanted to discuss for ages. The sunset was a gradient, the newspaper dots were halftone, the alignment of layers was registration, the original size of a cereal box or an envelope was a template. I noticed RGB versus CMYK long before I owned a computer or prepared a file for press and I sensed color schemes long before I mixed my first color wheel.

I heard Elder Monte Brough speak at the Alpine Tabernacle many years ago; I took notes. He was instrumental in bringing the gospel to Mongolia, however, his love of mountain climbing is what originally brought him there. He said the Lord gave him the love of climbing to bring him to a country and a people he would love even more. He said the Lord would reach us through our hobbies and encouraged everyone in attendance to use their hobbies for good. This made perfect sense to me. The art world, from its tiniest golden paper clip to its bulkiest behemoth printing press, was my hobby and my language. It's what I heard. It's what I saw. It's how I spoke.

So what does this have to do with anything? Everything.

Five years ago we went as a wee family of three to the American northeast. We flew into Buffalo and only ate at non-chains found on Yelp for four days. I'm still dreaming about the gumbo from Kentucky Greg's Hickory Pit (yes, we bought Greg a shirt). We sailed into Niagara Falls' mist, went to the top of Toronto's CN Tower, and took in the Church History sites in Palmyra, New York. Palmyra, which reminded me of Tarrytown with its trees and steeples, is a sort of Mecca for Mormons. It is where we believe Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Christ in the Sacred Grove and where Joseph Smith retrieved the ancient records known as the gold plates from the Hill Cumorah. We believe he translated the gold plates by the power of God into the Book of Mormon. We use the Book of Mormon as a companion to the Bible and are asked by our modern-day prophet to read from its pages daily.

Palmyra was a ghost town. (Go the week before school starts if you don’t want to deal with crowds.) We got personalized tours and one-on-one attention at every site. I will admit that a small and foolish part of me hoped that something marvelous would happen in the Sacred Grove. I mean, this was holy ground for Joseph and could therefore be holy ground for me. We had the Sacred Grove to ourselves. How familiar the layers of forest were to this Missouri girl from canopy down to felled acorn. It was silent except for buzzing and birds. The absence of darkness and the aura of peace were obvious...and peace is a fruit of the Spirit...but nothing really spoke to me. 

No matter. We also toured the E.B. Grandin building, the historic publication site of the first 5,000 copies of the Book of Mormon. Mere blocks from the Erie Canal, Grandin had his heavy equipment delivered via floating for a fraction of the usual price.

Here is where the books would have been sold, said the tour guide.

Here is the bindery. Beautiful hand tools.

Here is the room the books were printed in. My antenna popped up.

This room is the only room that was preserved in the building's restoration; the floors and walls are original. Antenna higher. Searching this space for messages.

This is a printing press. Heart beating faster. Surveying the glorious work studio.

The actual press the Book of Mormon was printed on is in the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City. The Church made a mold and created an exact replica to place in this room. The original press' feet made indentations in the floor; this reproduction is sitting exactly where the original press sat. Watchdog.

It took ten men seven months to set the type for the Book of Mormon. Speed demons.

This is how the first 16 pages of the Book of Mormon would have been printed, folded, and trimmed to be sewn. Take a copy. Hello, Signature. Good to see you, old friend.

Here are reproductions of the pages drying on the rafters. This is the door where the dried papers would have been stacked, tied, and lowered to the main level. Clever use of space. Nothing wasted.

Children would have had the job of washing ink off of the metal type and they certainly splashed all over. See the ink splatters on the back wall? They are original. Original ink? Maybe this ink kissed the moveable type that built the columns of the most correct book on earth. Maybe it didn't. But it was there when Joseph lived and it stayed there to speak to me in my language. I wasn't seeking a confirmation, I was merely touring a bookstore, but the silent spots spoke. Warm explosion of static in my chest. Fingertips zinging. I knew that what I believed to be true was true. Joseph Smith's life and mission were foreordained, not folklore. His talk with God in nature dismissed so many myths about the nature of God. He translated the Book of Mormon and had it printed in the room I was standing in. 

It is a peculiar irony that the machine responsible for kick-starting mass communication was also the vehicle for my personal witness.

Heavenly Father does speak to each of us in our own language. He literally spoke to Joseph in the Sacred Grove, however, he did not speak to me in the Sacred Grove. Instead, he instilled a lifelong love and awareness of art, materials, and methods in me and slowly set the scene. Through the gift of the Holy Ghost he whispered to me through my hobby; he made his impression with ink.

Photo of the press room in the E.B. Grandin Building. Info here. And here. And here.

*except for Humanities with Lauri Haddock

My aunt once mailed me a staple-less stapler for kicks. I was beyond intrigued that paper could be stapled without a stapler. Seeing things differently is tantamount to understanding. My love affair with office supplies is a direct offshoot of my love for all things art. Office supplies are tools for creation. Creation is power. If I’d had access to washi tape and a personal laminator in my formative years I very well could have been the first female President of the United States.

Saturday
Apr142018

Nonpareil

RE,

A year after I graduated from BYU I was watching Dad play softball with Lloyd Jensen and Jason Watt in South Provo. It seemed like I was "late", and I was never late. I left the game and drove to Kmart in East Bay and bought my first-ever pregnancy test. I remember I did not have my wedding ring on and felt embarrassed. I waited until we were back home and took the test alone in our master bath. Dad was waiting on the bed. When I came out and said I was pregnant Dad went berserko; we now call it the "Terrell Davis". It involves running down the hall and leaping onto the bed like you're tackling someone in the end zone and then kicking your legs up in the air while you hoot and holler. I told Dad I wanted to keep it a secret until we knew the sex. Greg said he wouldn't tell anyone until I told someone. I kept the cat in the bag for four long days.

I bought What to Expect When You're Expecting which explained what to look forward to every week of pregnancy. Every week listed "flatulence" as a side effect, which I looked up in our paperback dictionary. Talk about bursting my bubble!

I sucked on a peppermint while I drove to the Oreck store each morning, punched in the code to quiet the alarm, and threw up in the trashcan directly beneath the alarm. This happened for 8 months but once I got over the morning hump I was generally okay.

I ate wild berry Tums like they were chocolate and had a constant stampede of charley horses. Dad was so good at getting me the things I craved (grapefruit, mint chocolate chip milkshakes from One Man Band, plain hamburgers from McDonald's) and rubbing my calves every night. I read that women who craved beef when pregnant usually had boys. This scared me because I only wanted a girl.

You would not open your legs during the first ultrasound. I had to beg to get a second ultrasound a week later. I drank 32 ounces of Sprite an hour prior because a friend told me the sugar would make you hyper and immodest onscreen. Sprite was the trick and you were a GIRL! We called the families and announced you were a girl who would be named Aurora. I still can't believe I blabbed the name so soon. Someone could have stolen it!

I did not like my doctor's office. It had creepy dolls and ugly wallpaper (and the standard fish tank) and smelled like vanilla mixed with a guaranteed hour wait. I was supposed to rotate through all four doctors so that when I delivered I would have met my doctor at least once. I met Dr. Brent Lind for the first time the night you were born, but I was fine with it because he was the senior partner, had delivered the most babies, had about ten kids of his own, and didn't watch cable.

I didn't show until five months and from then on only looked like I had a basketball under my shirt. No one could tell I was pregnant from behind. I had dark chloasma on my cheeks the last trimester. 

Dad loved to poke you through my tummy and you would always fight back. It cracked Dad up. We loved to go on dates when we were pregnant with you, especially meandering through any store's baby aisle. We couldn't wait for you to arrive. Neither could our best customers at Oreck! The O'Very's gave us a gift card to The Children's Place, Grant Court's wife crocheted you a white blanket that ended up being the blankie you never let go of, and Paul Foster, our freight driver, bought us a really nice baby monitor PLUS D-batteries. I was so touched that customers did that sort of thing! It made me a more observant shopper.

At my 37-week appointment the doctor said I was 90% effaced and already dilating and to get my mom out here because we'd never make the due date. So Grandma flew out and nothing progressed. We furniture shopped, cleaned the baseboards (again), drove to Foothill Blvd twice for grapefruit salad, and washed all your tiny clothes in Dreft. I eventually had my membranes stripped three times because we needed you here now.

I woke up at five in the morning with what felt like really bad cramps. I sat up and realized it must be labor! I walked down the hall to the guest room to wake Grandma up but as I grabbed the doorknob to twist it the door flung open. She exclaimed, "I knew it! You're in labor! I just had a feeling when I was saying my prayers last night! I could tell by the way you were walking yesterday! Call the doctor, honey!" She was so excited. I called the doctor and he said to take a shower and get things in order and come to the hospital when the contractions were two minutes apart.

I showered "Greg-style" aka until all the hot water was gone and crawled back in bed to try and sleep some more. This was a mistake because my hair dried all wonky and I had "hatchet head" in the blurry 35mm film birth photos. Live and learn. I made sure to look good for Archer's birth. That sucker got a mom wearing bronzer, mascara, and curled hair.

Dad woke up and started to do his happy freaking out thing. He wasn't as scatterbrained as he was with Archer's birth (i.e. backing out over my suitcase) but he was still flustered. At two minutes apart Dad gave me a blessing and we headed to the hospital. Labor and Delivery was overflowing because a big storm had blown in and apparently severe changes in barometric pressure send women into labor. They sent me back home and told me to come back when I'd dilated more. Dad drove over the train tracks by the Post Office over and over to see if the bumps would shake you out, dropped me off at home, and drove to work (yes, you read me right).

Grandma fed me mashed potatoes between gut-wrenching contractions and I watched a VHS that we'd rented. I felt a warm gush and changed my clothes, embarrassed I'd wet my pants. Grandma, who has never been afraid to sniff anything be it chunky milk or fuzzy fridge food, smelled my pants and said it was amniotic fluid. My water had broken! We called Dad, who drove faster than he ever has on I-15 and returned to the hospital. I was not even dilated to a 3 but they had to admit me because my water had broken. They did a litmus paper test to prove my water had broken. I wanted to ask them if they were seriously doubting my Mom's nose.

IVs, heart monitor, etc. I had the nurse tape up my whole arm so I couldn't tell where the needles were inserted. I wimped out shortly, got an epidural, and fell asleep about a minute after I was pain-free. During this time Greg drove to Wendy's because he had skipped lunch working. This is a decision he will hear about for the rest of his life. The nurse checked on me an hour later and I was a fully effaced 10. Dr. Lind exclaimed, "Let's have this baby!", which produced an impromptu freak out with tears. It was overwhelming to straddle the point of no return. Kids are yours forever, you know?

Greg made it back from the drive-thru in the nick of time and stood at the foot of the bed cheering me on. Once he saw your head he screamed, "Wass! She has so much hair! I can see it!" Mom stayed up by my shoulder and helped hold my legs back. She also stroked my hair and rubbed my neck and did all kinds of soothing things. My mom should have been a doula. I hadn't planned on having my mom at the hospital but I'm glad she was there.

Five pushes later you came out at 9:18 pm and screamed, "Waaah! I'm here!" I asked Greg three times if you were really a girl. (My friend's ultrasound said "BOY" and she engraved his boy name into their crib...and then had a girl. I did not want this to be my fate.) I was so relieved you were, in fact, a healthy 8 lb 2 oz girl. The doctor thought you were going to be six pounds but you were huge. "Where were you hiding that baby?" It was news to me I had to push the placenta out. This was due to me taping shut the last section of What to Expect When You're Expecting because I didn't want to know about childbirth or see any gross pictures.

Dad called his parents from his cell phone outside because cell phones weren't allowed in the hospital. I called my dad from the hospital phone. Aunt Cristall and Uncle Harper were your first visitors at the tail end of their 14-hour Seattle roadtrip where Cristall had stalked Bono at a U2 concert.

I got wheeled to my room while Dad and Grandma (you made her a grandma, you were the first Durkovich grandchild!) observed your first bath. Dad said you loved having your hair washed. (You still go through shampoo and conditioner faster than anyone I've ever known.) Your hair was short, black, thick, and spiky. You looked like a hedgehog. The nurses tied you hair bows in every color of ribbon because you had the best hair in the nursery. I shared a bathroom with another mom and didn't think it was weird or ghetto or anything. I had absolutely no hospital expectations. I for sure didn't have a birth plan or a videographer.

The next morning was Easter Sunday. Dad wanted to announce your birth at church so I was alone with you, a hard-boiled egg, and a daffodil. I put a bunny headband on your head but you hated it. You also hated your hospital hat. As I held you I felt our eternal bond welding. You were the girl I always wanted.

You were all mine for 13 years. I didn't know I could love you more until I saw what kind of a sibling you are to your brothers. You are a rare one, a nonpareil of a girl. Not because you alphabetize DVDs for fun or prefer adults to teenagers, but because of your steely inner strength and alert senses. I can't believe you fly the coop in a year. I dread the day for selfish reasons. I love you, my big-eyed Bug! This morning you were sixteen going on seventeen but tonight you are officially the dancing queen, young and sweet, only seventeen. 

 

Photo lyric from "Sky Blue and Black" by Jackson Browne. Thank you to my BYU roommate's Catholic boyfriend for having excellent taste in music. Still one of my favorite songs, especially since Aurora means "dawn" and she really was my sky unfolding.

 

nonpareil: noun, an unrivaled or matchless person or thing.

synonyms: best, finest, crème de la crème, peak of perfection, elite, jewel in the crown, ne plus ultra, paragon, nonesuch

 

RE's 17th Birthday Menu (per her request):

Breakfast: baked oatmeal, candied bacon

Lunch: Dave's Killer Bread smeared with spinach artichoke dip, turkey, medium cheddar

Dinner: meatloaf, twice baked potatoes, asparagus

Treat: shortbread chocolate chip cookies