Protect was my word

Today Bree turned 25. Bree, my eldest, my baby.

She lives in New York City. She attends Columbia University Medical School. Her graduate work is the field of genetics.

I wish she was here. But her life is there now. She finished her first year, last week. Her second year begins in a few days. She will intern at Presbyterian Hospital, this term.

We had a Zoom call, this morning – a surprise Zoom birthday party for my 25-year-old baby.

The call was her mother’s idea. Not all of la familia could get on the call. But I and her mother and her siblings and aunts and uncles and grandparents and cousins and stepfamily all joined at 8:30 a.m. PST.

Protect was my word.

We wanted the surprise Zoom birthday party to actually be a surprise. We all dial-in. Then it dawns on us that nobody told Bree about the call.

We laughed. Would she be available? She could be taking a shower, be on a walk, her phone could be dead. 

Planning isn’t my specialty.

I text her. 

No response. 

I text again and again and again and finally she replies: “hi.”

Told her I wanted to Zoom with her. Suspiciousness must have been in her; we have never Zoomed. We use FaceTime.

Anyway, she gets on a few seconds later and her face beams.

Our family is very close. 

After a few minutes of catching up and laughing, her mother suggested that each of us say a word or words describe Bree.

Her mother and siblings and aunts and uncles and grandparents and cousins and stepfamily all joined and revealed their words with an explanation. Their words were radiant, fun, loving, music, joy, intellect, sweet, peacekeeper, lovely, caring, intelligent, diligent, fun, caring, brilliant, dance and funny stories.

It was my turn. 

I said something like this:

Protect is my word. Because 25 years ago, at about this exact time, you came into this world. And I hadn’t known what love was until that moment. Then the nurse said she was going to take you and clean you. I told her I would accompany her. And she took you into this room and she placed you on a small bed under this warm light. And she stepped away to gather the cleaning materials. And you lay there, exposed, without touch, crying. And I put my two hands on you and whispered into your ear and told you that I would always protect you, until the time I breathe my last breath.

I’m thousands of miles away from her today. And if I saw her now, I’d, for the first time, kiss her 25 times on the forehead. (Whenever I see her, I kiss her years on her forehead.) 

I’ll see her soon enough.

I’ve been thinking of my 25-year-old baby all day today. 

But I couldn’t not think of the 125,000 children in American whose parental rights have been terminated. That means they live in the foster care system and have nobody — neither father nor mother nor sibling nor sister nor aunt nor uncle nor grandparent nor cousin nor stepfamily — to protect them.

Protect is my word.