On the Occasion of my Youngest’s Adulthood

My youngest turned twenty-one yesterday.

I’m gazing at one of my favorite pictures of her as I write this – she and her brother posed on a decorative stone wall at a house that was new to us the previous winter. It was then late spring and the weather was glorious, so I got the two of them outside for some pictures. Cate was three when the photo was taken, and it is how I remember her best: unruly pieces of blond fluffy waves escaping my best efforts to contain them in a ponytail, and the brightest, happiest smile crinkling her beautiful grey-green eyes. She looks perfectly comfortable and happy with herself.

Right next to that photo is one of her senior portraits, the one in which she is wearing her school uniform, with a couple of twists. Against school regulations, her shirt is partially tucked (must be fully tucked at all times), her belt is covered with green studs (should be brown or black unadorned leather) and she’s wearing Chuck Taylors on her feet (only brown or black leather dress shoes were permitted). She has her hands on her hips, looking at the camera with a playful “How do you like me now?” smirk. That’s my girl. Stepping ever so slightly outside the lines.

Catherine always did things her way, from the very beginning, in a curious combination of whimsy and will. She steadfastly refused to nurse for nearly her first week of life, so that in desperation I’d give in and give her a bottle. When she was a toddler, she put on her father’s Donegal tweed Walking Hat and one of her mittens to “dust” the dining room table. She insisted on dressing herself in outfits like polka-dotted shorts, a stripey top, and a different sock on each foot – all in colliding circus colors. Sometimes I’d find her in her room, “dancing to music that only I can hear.” Beauty and the Beast is still her favorite movie, and she wants to be married someday in a beautiful gold ball gown, with her groom in royal blue tails.

She feels deeply and strongly. She cares for those in her world, both friends and those she hasn’t met, with uncompromising vigor. She has no patience with bigotry or prejudice, and absolutely no tolerance for ignorance. (I tell her that she needs to work on that last one.) There are no grey areas in Cate’s emotional world.

The co-Valedictorians of Cate’s high school class dedicated their graduation address to listing the positive attributes of each of their class members. Their words for my daughter were the best words I’ve ever heard: “Cate Wigginton – you are your own person. You never bowed to peer pressure.” So they’d noticed, too.

My baby wants to be an FBI agent. Of course, I worry about that choice. But she will not be swayed. That’s good. She’ll need every ounce of that resolve to become a real G-Man.

She may not know it, but she helped me regain my own whimsy. It had gotten buried in grown-up and grief by the time she came along. But with the force-of-nature that was my small daughter, there was no faking your way through the tea parties and Polly Pockets. She knew when I wasn’t completely invested in the game, and she’d insist that I match her level of commitment to the fairy tales. (All it took was one of those crinkle-nosed smiles.)

I look ahead to her next few years and I see wonderful, challenging, life-defining days. What a world my daughter will create. No matter what, she’s going to do it her way.

Belle with a gun & badge? Why not.

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About techlady911

Still trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up. Pictures are my lifeline, words are my wings.
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13 Responses to On the Occasion of my Youngest’s Adulthood

  1. irishsignora says:

    I think I’ll be a basket case when mine are “all grown up.” Thanks for the preview 🙂

  2. A beautiful tribute to your daughter. It’s always fun to look back, but just as fun to dream ahead –

    • techlady911 says:

      You are so right ~ my daughter’s future excites me almost as much as it does her. You should *see8 her face when she talks about being an FBI agent. (Looking at that photo above, who would’ve guessed it?)
      Thanks for reading ~

  3. Where does time go? Your daughter sounds terrific. Congratulations on this milestone.

  4. Karishma says:

    Beautiful. 🙂 This piece overflows with the love and pride you have for your daughter. I really felt that in your words.

  5. ntexas99 says:

    what a beautifully whimsical and yet concrete way to describe the woman your daughter has become … especially loved the recognition that she was the catalyst for rediscovering your own ability to embrace whimsy, and how you paint a picture of a girl with an infectious crinkle-nosed smile, with a steely resolve, and a desire to make a difference, one FBI case at a time.

    beautifully done … excellent … lovely … and thanks for sharing this one

  6. bmillergirl1 says:

    Sweet post – my youngest turned 21 a few weeks ago and I understand the retrospective view as well as the day dreams of her future. Enjoy her and be blessed!~ Barb

  7. brendamarroy says:

    Cate sounds like someone I’d like to know. Congrats to you for allowing her to grow into herself.

  8. millodello says:

    That day really matters to everyone. Nicely done.

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