Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A mother’s reflections on her daughter’s birthday November 16, 2013

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EVEN AS A BABY, she was fiercely her own person.

Miranda didn’t snuggle. She cried way too much. In those early months, it was sometimes tough being her mother, dealing with a colicky infant while also nurturing my first-born, only 21 months older.

But that all seems so long ago now that my second daughter is turning 26 today.

Miranda and her dad, along the shore of Lake Winnebago near Appleton, when we last visited in October.

Miranda and her dad, along the shore of Lake Winnebago near Appleton in High Cliff State Park, when we last visited her in October.

Where have the years gone? I have asked myself that often this past year—the year in which my eldest daughter married, my 19-year-old son moved to Boston to attend college and my middle child, Miranda, is now edging away from 25. In many ways, it’s been a tough year for me as I adjust to life as an empty nester.

But then I consider my three and I can only be happy for them, proud of the independent adults they’ve become, seemingly content in their lives.

Take Miranda, the birthday girl. She’s lived and worked for the past three years as a Spanish medical interpreter in Appleton, Wisconsin, 300 miles from Faribault. She possesses a deep passion for her work and the people she serves. And there is nothing more noble in a job than to love what you do and to serve others.

Although I’m not privy to details due to patient confidentiality, I know Miranda has dealt with some difficult situations, interpreting for patients in hospital emergency rooms, physicians’ offices and elsewhere. It takes a special type of person to remain calm and professional and compassionate in the face of emotional stress and/or trauma. My daughter is all of those.

As a little girl, Miranda was all girly girl, wearing only skirts and donning ribbons in her hair. She also loved horses, including her stick horse, shown here in a photo taken when she was 5 1/2.

As a little girl, Miranda was all girly girl, wearing only skirts and donning ribbons in her hair. She also loved horses, including her stick horse, shown here in a photo taken when she was 5 1/2.

I wonder, sometimes, if that core strength and heartfelt empathy come from her own experiences. At age four, she underwent hernia surgery. Even now I can visualize my darling curly haired girl walking down the hospital hallway to the operating room, Big Bird clutched in one hand, the other hand held by a nurse. My preschooler never cried. I did.

And then, years later, she was diagnosed with scoliosis (an abnormal curvature of the spine) and wore a full torso back brace 24/7 for a year. That time we both cried at the diagnosis. But Miranda soldiered on and never complained although I know it had to be difficult for her. Life’s challenges often make us stronger.

Miranda is undeniably strong and independent. She’s studied, interned and vacationed in Argentina. On her second trip of three to South America, she was mugged. Not assaulted, thankfully. Thousands of miles away, I felt utterly helpless. Miranda managed, with the help of friends and my assistance back home, to work through the situation.

I need only look back at the baby and preschooler she was to see the roots of her independence and strength. I remember how, as a preschooler, Miranda would tell me to “go away” when she was playing alone in the toy room, now my office. So I would turn around and walk away, only semi understanding her desire for solitude.

That, I suppose, was the beginning of the letting go. As mothers, that is our ultimate goal—to let our children go. It is not easy, but that is our job from the moment they are born. I eased Miranda onto that path of independence early on, as much for myself as for her, by sending her to bible camp every summer, supporting her decisions to go on multiple mission trips (including two to clean up after Hurricane Katrina), sucking up my own worry and enthusing about her time in Argentina, and now, even though I wish she lived nearer than 300 miles away, accepting that she’s happy where she’s at in her life.

Now, on my daughter’s 26th birthday, I reflect on this beautiful young woman her dad and I raised. Miranda is a woman of faith, caring and compassionate and kind and giving, and, bonus, a darned good cook. Whenever we visit, she treats us to delicious home-cooked ethnic food. She worked two summers in the Concordia Spanish Language Village kitchen near Bemidji, where she learned to cook. I failed her in that skill.

But I succeeded where it counts, and that is in raising my girl to cherish God, family and friends and to pursue her passions in life.

Please join me in wishing Miranda a happy 26th birthday.

Happy birthday, Tib! I love you now and forever.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling