Tomorrow Zoe turns eleven, and every time I write something for the girls’ birthdays, I say how I can’t believe it’s been this many years. I suppose I will be saying that until we are old ladies, Zoe and me. I hope I get to be an old lady. I hope we get to be old ladies together. Maybe not in the “I’m gonna live with my daughter” sense, but just so I can have as much time as I can with Zoe and with her sister. I truly love being with my girls – they are so funny and so smart, and they are good, kind and just people. They make me proud to be their mama every single day.
This year has been a good one for Zoe – like, one of the first REALLY good years she’s had in a while. She’s a happy kid for the most part, and much of the anger and the anxiety she has dealt with in the past seems to have calmed. I won’t say it’s gone away, because I’m not that delusional, but it just seems different now that she’s a little older. Zoe is still as feisty as ever. She’s strong willed, and she is sometimes SO frustrating. I’m certain I get even more frustrated with her because I see so much of myself in Zoe. I try so hard not to silence her noise, and not to squash her will. One day I hope it will serve her well to be as stubborn and assertive as she is now. Once in a while I will be arguing with Zoe (which is honestly ridiculous in the first place) and I will realize that nothing I say is going to sway her or make her change her mind. I can tell her that a canary is yellow. I can be holding that damn yellow bird in my hand and she will look right at me and tell me it’s pink. And then she will come up with 743 different reasons that she is right. It’s exhausting. And it’s also amazing. It simultaneously makes me want to jump out of a window and hug her.
Zoe loves to bake. She would spend hours in the kitchen if I let her, working on cookies, muffins, and other treats. And she’s GOOD at it. It’s funny to me because I’m anything but a baker. Baking is so measured (no pun intended) and precise. I like to throw in a little of this, and a little of that. Zoe follows a recipe. She does this for the ridiculous amount of slime she makes as well. The bane of my existence this year was Zoe’s slime-making and I’d rather not write any more about that. She got a trumpet for Christmas, and while she hasn’t begun taking lessons just yet, she is insistent to pull the trumpet out when friends are over to play for them. It’s…well. It’s very LOUD. It occurs to me as I write this that Zoe doesn't really care that she can't play that damned trumpet, she just loves showing it off because she thinks it's cool. Zoe still loves Alice Cooper, but this year she’s surprised me by learning so many of the words to the songs that I play in the house. I guess I don’t realize how much music I play, or how often, until she begins to belt out the lyrics to a Lori McKenna song, or an old Waylon tune. I love when she does this. Recently we saw Pink, and she knew EVERY single word that lady was singing. Zoe is a listener.
Tonight after dinner, I asked Zoe about the last year. I asked her what was the best part about being 10, and she said, “My family got cooler.” When I asked her what she meant, she said, “Well. We have Liz and Gregg now, and they’re cool. Daddy is cool, and you’re cooler with your longer hair and you laugh a lot. I’m not sure about Lucy, though.” Zoe makes me laugh every single day. I’ve spent a lot of nights over the last few years staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night wondering how I’m messing up my girls. How did our divorce affect them, and what will they take away from it? It’s always been my hope that in the end, the important thing will be that they know just how many people love them. Tonight I realized that Zoe understands that, too.
Later in our conversation tonight, she thought about my question a little bit longer and then she said, “Hey mom? The worst part about being 10 is that my retainer smells bad all of the time.” And I supposed if that is the worst thing to happen this year, my sweet baby Zoe is doing just fine.