Maria’s Journey

Maria Kim’s journey to parenthood.                                              Find more of Maria

Last Sunday, I went to the most amazing space in Chicago.

Not because it was in Hyde Park, though I certainly love that area. Nor because it was in a vintage condo with all the trappings of a Carson McCullers book that you could devour in one sitting.

No, it wasn’t that kind of a space. Not a physical, literal space, but a better kind of space – the amazing space created only among close friends and family – often across generations, often within a circle held tightly like a hug.

A dear friend of mine wanted to celebrate the 13th birthday of her oldest daughter by creating a new kind of tradition. In other cultures, we find unique ways to honor a young child’s transition into adulthood. In hers, there isn’t an analogous event, so she wanted to create one from scratch.

The invitation? That all the women who her daughter views as role models in her life join together and share a letter with lessons of growing up – of skipping the rock from tween to teen to adult – to wish her well on her first leap.

So there we were – an aunt, a grandma, three neighbors, a colleague, the mom, the potential future step mom, and three friends – surrounding this young girl with honesty, awkwardness, elegance and possibility. And we each lit a candle, then read aloud our letters to this birthday girl taking flight.

From candle 1, I knew that no one tumbles into love quite as fast and as fiercely as a new aunt with her first niece.

From candle 3, I knew that grandmas are weavers – who see the past in new frames every day, in the faces and places and moods and spirit of children, whether 40 or 4 months old. They see beautiful echo in everyone.

From candles 2,4, and 5-9, I knew that friends can amaze you and lift you and surprise you. But above all, they can share an unequivocal love for your child, simply because you invited them in.

From candle 10, I knew that a child’s family includes all she lets in, beyond and because of bloodlines, and that there’s power for that child to have all her family together, in one space, at close bay, encircled.

From candle 11, I knew that she was the type of mom I wanted to be – one who imagines rituals so that her child never doubts that she is backed by an amazing cheering squad who will root for her until she can boldly and fabulously root for herself.

And candle 12? Well, that was lit for all the women who couldn’t be with us that day – either because they were out of town but sent crazy love home, or because they were in heaven and sent crazy love home.

And over 12 candles, 11 letters and a buoy of laughter and love, we unfolded all the little truths. We told her that there would be good days, and there would be bad days.

And just as predictably, there would also be awesome, can’t get enough, my belly is floating like a roller coaster but it feels great anyway, palpable, crazy, alive, sweet, amazing days.

The days when she is fully she. No airs, no accidents, just she – with all her style, humor, smarts, sassiness, kindness, friendship. The days when she is just she and she is fabulous.

The days when she tumbles fiercely into love and chooses someone who chooses her right back.

The days when if faced with a choice of any other day she could possibly dream up, she says ‘I can’t imagine any other place I’d rather be.’

For us, last Sunday was one of those days. Our lives have become richer, with more attitude and more strength, because of her.

And that flight of passage was as much about her and her leap from tween to teen plus, as it was about our flight from “aunt, grandma, mom, friends, neighbors, colleagues and step-moms to be” to just what we were that day – her circle.

Yes, there in the middle of that circle was the best space for me to be. An amazing space indeed.

Maria Kim

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