June 21, 2007
Just a few days ago I was pondering Erin's approaching birthday and thinking how exciting it was that a neuroblastoma kid was still living with the disease almost five years after original diagnosis and more than two years after relapse. I had had my usual (annual) conversation with her about "what's something you will be able to do this year that you haven't or couldn't do when you were nine (or eight or seven)?" Her response: "Go to overnight camp. Remember, mom? You told me I could go to Mo Ranch next summer. . .and also next year I'll be old enough to spend the night in the Callaway House for A&M Soccer Camp."
Having your youngest put a decade in the can is one way to start feeling a little decrepit, but mainly I thought how old Erin was getting. How her interests will probably begin to change. How she is no longer a little girl, and soon she will leave girlhood behind for young womanhood. We walked along together, towards the horse barn for Erin's lesson, and I thought I saw a little touch of hips that hadn't been there the last time I looked and wondered how soon she would replace the smear of lip protectant sun block with lip gloss.
As we passed the GasTec propane gas tank farm, Erin pointed to the sign and asked: "Is that the stuff Nelson Willie was smoking that got him arrested?"
Mom (confused and wondering who Nelson Willie was): "I don't think anybody smokes propane."
Erin: "Yes they do."
Mom (thinking the youngest dog in the family had both a new nickname and a new way to get into trouble): "And who is Nelson Willie?"
Erin: "You know. He is the singer with braids that was on Monk one time."
Mom (clueing in): "Oh, yeah. I know who you're talking about. And you think he got arrested for smoking propane?"
Erin: "I don't know. That's why I was asking you."
Mom: "Well, I don't know whether you can get arrested for smoking propane, but I think if you smoked it, you would explode. I haven't heard of Nelson Willie having a nasty explosion, so I don't think that's what he was smoking."
Mom (thinking to herself): "Ten is not so old after all. She thinks Willie Nelson is a guest star on a detective show, and she doesn't really know what stuff, when smoked, can get you into trouble."
We walk along together, and when I reach out to take Erin's hand, she squeezes back instead of brushing me away. I walk on, with a little lift in my step at the realization that my baby's not almost out the door (yet).
Yesterday, Erin officially hit the mark. We celebrated at home, just family. By some strange coincident, my mother gave her the same thing she gave me on my 10th birthday: a Hot Wheels track. That would be funny if she had done it on purpose, but I think it is even funnier that she didn't. Walter and I bought Erin a bicycle because her knees were hitting the handle bars of Davis's hand-me-down that she had been riding. I was glad we did after recently reading about "No Child Left Inside," an idea taking hold across the country to pull kids away from tv/computers/video stations, etc. and get them playing outdoors more. According to the article, American children spend 6.5 hours A DAY in electronic-mediated activities. We even shot some video showing Erin, Davis, and Willie approaching the sound barrier, or at least 17.5 miles per hour:
So, yesterday was Erin's birthday. Today is the first day of summer (a laughable concept if you live in Bryan, Texas where the thermostat started showing 90+ readings over six weeks ago). Tomorrow, Walter, Erin, and I will jet off to Washington D.C. for another round of lobbying, hoping to Reach the Day. We will visit on Capital Hill in support of the Conquer Childhood Cancer Act of 2007. If you can't join us in DC or drive to one of the many state capitals where joint "Reach the Day" childhood cancer awareness events are planned, at least be there with us in spirit, helping us choose the right words and appeal to those who hold the power to authorize $150 million towards pediatric cancer research over the next five years. It wouldn't hurt if you could also help us ward off those nasty airplane germs that made Erin so sick last time she flew.