My dear little Cara,
On the evening before the day of your birth, my thoughts turn back to that magical time of pregnancy. 1974: We attended classes together all fall, you often waking for morning exercise during City Planning, an option of my Social Work program. As you performed your gymnastic routines, I wondered what the future might hold for us. We had already left your father in Calgary and moved to Edmonton. He seemed unable to be part of the life I envisioned. It was not your fault that you were conceived prematurely, before your parents formed a mutual understanding of a life together or even a commitment to each other. It was you and me, against the world, and I had your name picked long before you were born. I was in my final year of B.S.W . studies and confident that I could support us as soon as I finished.
1975: The first year was rough. You had to stay in hospital a month because of your low birth weight – placenta deficiency “not my fault” the doctor reassured me – so I went back to school. In retrospect, that probably wasn’t the best decision as I had no idea how much more difficult it would be after you were discharged. You ended up staying with Auntie Barb Mondays through Fridays so I could concentrate on my studies. We later enjoyed several months together over the summer and (though limited to one film a month) I have many delightful pictures of you learning to jump, meeting extended family and friends, chilling in the back yard, your Baptism, walking in your walker, having baths, learning to stand, coming along with self-feeding. I started my first professional job mid-August and you were settled in a wonderful day home.
1976: Life was good for the most part. Your day home siblings Mathew, Tammy, and Corey became trusted friends. We moved from the apartment we shared with Auntie Betty to the little house that would be our home for the next five years. That was the summer of weddings – Uncle Cec and Pam as well as Auntie Betty & Dale. You received your horse for Christmas.
1977: We met our next door neighbor, Michelle, who became your best friend and “sister” for several years. That was the summer you fell off a bike and needed stitches in your chin. We later flew to Whitehorse to visit our friend “JJ.”
1978 was full of birthday parties, you and Michelle “camping” in various spots around the house, sharing bubble baths, and playing in the backyard. You would have started day care that fall.
1979 brought more parties, lots of trips to the farm where you loved playing with your cousins Robbie and Jessica, a new swing set in our back yard, a bigger paddling pool, and more new friends who lived in our basement for a while.
1980, forty years ago already, you would have turned six years old. I have pictures of going to the Exhibition, more camping, more parties, more trips to the farm. You started Kindergarten at Holyrood and moved to after-school care. You went to Grandma’s early because you had chicken pox and I joined you for Christmas. That was also the year we met our new friends Jason, TJ, and the man known as Block. It seemed like a good idea at the time to join forces with them. More about that later.
Earlier this year I thought of creating a collage of all your past Christmases, probably because most series tend to be of birthdays or school beginnings. This is as much as I have done.
That first year, of course, you arrived three days after Christmas after I had spent the previous two weeks in hospital on bed rest. It easy to imagine how we both considered our first six years as the best times. Although I have fleeting moments of regret about remembered impatience or situations I could have handled better, for the most part we managed well and had a supportive network of family and friends.
Interestingly, both Michelle and Tammy “found” me on Facebook this year so that helped rekindle memories of your early days and our little house on 79th Street. My first “real” car for my new job was purchased 1975 on a three-year plan, co-signed by Auntie Anne, and at some point in 1980 my five-year student loan payments would have been completed.
Discontent grew with my government job so I made a big switch in 1980, only to have my exciting new position cancelled shortly thereafter. I was fortunate to find a hospital position, albeit with longer hours and a sharp learning curve. I had optimistically applied for a home-building program earlier that year but the two consecutive job changes seriously undermined my flexibility and confidence so I decided to keep renting. 1981 brought many other changes to be discussed another time.
Happy birthday in Heaven, my darling Cara, forever young at 22. Thank you for the inspiration you continue to provide as I listen for your voice and thank you for the friends of old you have sent to comfort me. You are missed and loved by so many.