I have a black and white photograph of a baby girl, maybe two at most, crawling on the ground, outside, with a fawn. A little baby deer and a baby girl. Perhaps the most precious thing you could ever see. Such innocence in both. Neither afraid. Neither shy. Captured by someone who clearly loved this little girl. Who was right there. Ready to protect, sure. But just there, in the moment, to witness the beauty of this little girl, this baby deer. Captured on film by someone who knew how special this moment was, how lucky they were to witness this life. This was my mother. This precious baby was my mother, when she was one of two. When she noticed and protected and so very, very special. Within a life blink, she would become one of nine. Nine children. There would be dishes, and dirty clothes, and dirty, well, everything. And precious mo- ments would be so hard to notice, let alone capture. But here she was, the only little Hvezda girl, perhaps the only girl, to have crawled with this fawn. And she was special. I see her now, and know that photographer loved her with a full heart. And oh, to be a witness to that. To be standing in that field of grass, watching a baby girl and a baby deer, so carefree… I smell the sown fields, and the light air, and the hope of what that America was. The promise held in one click.
My mother dropped me off at college. We were each one of two. Both on the most fragile of legs, we began our future. Innocent, hopeful. My first roommate was Kimmie. Not Kim, or Kimberly, but Kimmie. Kimmie’s American dream was to one day have a job where she could put a jar big jar of candy on her desk. Also on our floor was a big breasted girl in her late twenties, starting her life over again. She lived with an eighteen year old that worked at Second Hand Rose. There was Kostas, from Greece, in love with the goth girl from someplace dark. The shiny couple, Peggy and Dean, who someday wanted to raise their own baseball team. The African American from Georgia. The angry couple who only wanted to be Peggy and Dean. The boys who watched Gunsmoke. The girls from South Dakota who only wanted to smoke. All on our fawn legs.
My first winter there, I got sick. I woke up feeling like I had the flu. But worse. I went to class, thinking maybe if I just forgot about it. It got worse. I went to the campus doctor. He took my temperature. Gave me birth control. And sent me on my way. The nurse, slightly more concerned came to my dorm room about an hour later. She brought me back. Did the tests. “Where do you live?” the doctor asked me. “Alexandria.” “I think you can make it,” he said. He thought I could make it??? Was I going to die? I had appendicitis. I called my mom. She came to get me. They had the surgeon waiting at the hospital. I did make it. It was a Thursday. I came back to school on Monday. No one believed, until I showed my scar, what I had done over the weekend.
And that was college, really. People telling you, without bold certainty, “I think you can make it.” And then, from this small campus, we were sent out into the world. No longer one of two, nor one of nine, but one of millions, with just a slight memory, of knowing, maybe, just maybe, in this click of four years that went by, maybe we were special.
My mother found her legs. Bold and strong. She helped me find mine. How lucky we are to witness each other’s lives. I give thanks for that. Every day. And so it begins…