The ides of February are upon us, meaning we are poised in between the birthdays of Christiana and Bella. Christiana turned 20 last Thursday and Bella is counting the days until she turns 8 on Friday. From American Forestry books to American Girl dolls, as their birthday presents indicate and as I’ve come to think of them lately. (Except really what I think is from birth control to Polly Pockets but I’m not going to write that here.) It was only when Bella brought home the obligatory second grade Chinese Zodiac wheel that we realized she and Christiana, being 12 years apart, share the same symbol – the monkey. Now, probably much like any old zodiac regardless of what language it speaks, you could find traits of yourself in every one of the twelve Chinese zodiac characters. But I can say with some certainty that the following monkey traits do, indeed, fit my second and last girls: motivator, improviser, quick-witted, inquisitive, flexible, innovative, problem solver, self-assured, sociable, artistic, polite, dignified, objective, and factual.
I have long described Christiana as one who knows her mind and sets out with a purpose to achieve her goals. I learned a long time ago that when she stepped her self-assured self up to the ice cream counter and decisively ordered pink bubblegum ice cream, no amount of me trying to talk her out of that hideously artificially-colored flavor would work and that, indeed, she would eat every last blaring bit of bubblegum before concluding with a fuchsia-tongued smile. In short, she taught me at a very young age to heed her word. Because she was true to it. And so it was that on her big day last week we headed to the valley to take her to dinner and she chose the restaurant, announcing that she wanted a piece of fresh fish and that is exactly what she ate down to the last little flake.
Meanwhile, back here in yurtville, Bella has planned her own party. And she has already drawn and colored the pictures of she and her guests cavorting happily at the event, even though they haven’t even RSVP’d yet. She is organized and artistic and doesn’t forget a thing, which is why she is the keeper of the grocery list. Last year she went to Automercado with our friend, Wendy, after a sleepover and informed her on every aisle what she needed to buy until finally Wendy said, “Bella, you don’t even live with us.” “I know,” Bella said happily, not skipping a beat, “but you do need apples.” And they did. I have long said if anything happened to me, Bella would take right over and never miss a beat.
I try not to compare my kids and had never really drawn a Venn diagram around these two, but that monkey thing got me thinking. They do, indeed, have a large circle of commonality. Both are very creative and can/could be sent to their rooms to “clean” them and stay for an entire afternoon playing, happily emerging hours later having never picked up one single thing. Bella is the only one wearing my high heels and dresses around here or fully taking advantage of my handbag collection. Recently she emerged from her yurt dressed for work at her new Home Depot job wearing an orange apron that used to belong to Christiana and sporting a giraffe nametag from her summer Bible school - Wild about the Bible or something equally exotic. She was toting Hannah’s new pink tool kit left out of the post-holiday carry-on luggage, a screwdriver being a threat to our national security and all, and sporting plastic high heels to match. When I asked for some remodeling advice, she informed me that, sorry, but she was on her lunch break. And so, as with her sister before her, I just follow along and try not to get in the way, letting my two monkeys plan their own parties, pick their own ice creams, and find their way. From the second year in elementary school to the second year in college, they both stride through life with confidence and a big smile and so far that is working just fine.
PS Yesterday Bella received her birthday card from Grandma Moore and read it to me while we were driving to ballet. 'For a Granddaughter who's amazing, talented, fun-loving, a great sport, a shining star, and most of all . . . a super sweet girl who's loved very much!' "That Grandma sure knows how to pick the perfect card," she said, clearly agreeing with every American Greetings word.