Fast forward some 25 years and I finally understand what she meant. I have accomplished all of those things in the exact order that I wanted. And now I am a mom with two young daughters who are growing at an ever rapid pace. They have yet to set life goals, unless you count "boat fixer" or New Orleans Saints cheerleader as a career aspiration. With each passing day, I catch glimpses of the women that they will become. And my heart breaks, just a little, as I try and remember the tiny babies they each once were.
I never thought I was the maternal type. I was always too self absorbed to think about anyone else. Then one day, my maternal clock sounded an alarm and there was nothing my rational mind could do to to silence it. So, my husband reluctantly agreed to reproduce and we now have two beautiful, healthy young daughters. And MY life is consumed with THEIR lives. It took a good two years to accept the fact that I cannot sanely balance life as a mother and as a veterinarian. To accept that my life, which once revolved around physical exams and surgery and euthanasias and emergencies, now revolves around school drop off and pick up, endless dishes and laundry, the relentless birthday party circuit that comes with little kids.
I wouldn't change a thing.
I love my little girls, more than I have ever loved anything in my life. I can't imagine life without them. And the trouble is, sometimes I don't remember life with them. With the hustle and bustle of each day, I forget to stop and appreciate all of my daughters' quirks. And that makes me sad. Because I realize that each day flies by faster than the one before it. And I panic that I will forget everything.
Which is why I am thankful for my camera. I recently rediscovered a photo that I had taken of Ella when she was about 6 months old. I was new to photography and trying to learn how to take better portraits. I hadn't found my style and was basically copying whatever I could, just for the sake of learning. On this particular day, I had Ella dressed in a diaper and Baby Legs, just like another baby in a photograph I had recently seen and admired. And I failed at copying this photographer's image. Miserably. But I managed one shot that is priceless to me, even though it wasn't what I had envisioned.
Miss Ella, sitting up all by herself. With her giant eyes and ruby lips. With an expression that is unapologetically her. Even at 6 months of age, she appears as if she is going to take the world by the hand and show it all of the amazing things she knows. So full of life and wonder and pure awesomeness.
Sometimes I forget what she was like when she was a baby. How she smelled, what she felt like, what she sounded like. And I look at this picture and it all floods back. And not just the feel of her fuzzy little head on my lips, or the fact that she smelled like Noodle and Boo. I see her curtains in the background and remember picking them out for her; the funny smell they had when they arrived, asking grandma to sew them a bit longer, the way they gently danced on the breeze that came through the window of her room. In the house we no longer live in. Stuff that seems insignificant, but is part of her history, our history.
With this photo, I am able to stop time for as long as I want. And that helps me feel not-so-panicked that time is flying by faster than I would like it to.