As Baha'is, we recognize the age of fifteen as the beginning of maturity-- the time when a young person takes responsibility for their own spiritual and physical well-being. From this time forward, a child becomes a youth, mindful of their own participation in community life, Fasting, and reciting the daily obligatory prayer. Today Ai Ana steps across this threshold from childhood into the beginning of womanhood, and as her mother it is at once terrifying, confirming and somewhat incomprehensible. I worry that I have not prepared her well enough. That somehow, in the rush of childhood, I've left out key elements, overlooked foundational necessities, failed to supply basic tools. If I look only at myself, it is easy to see the shortcomings. But if I look outward, at her, it is even easier to appreciate who she is and who she continues to become.
Children, it is well-known, change every aspect of our life. They make us human by stretching us to the limits of our capacity, instructing us in humility, joy and unconditional love. I would never have chosen that time in my life to become a mother. In the strange way that grace works, in the end it was not my decision to make, and I was given the gift of this sunny girl who came bursting into the world with an enthusiasm to greet everyone in it that has never faded.
Ai Ana remains imminently kind, enthusiastic and sociable. She wishes to be a source of good to this world, and she has no interest in doing it alone. She will bring everyone she meets along for the ride, if they will let her. Every face is a friend to her-- it simply would not occur to her that the world would operate in any other way. When rebuffed, she is tenacious, forgiving, courageous. Her love for humanity is deep and all pervasive, and a source of confidence and inspiration for her. These are qualities she certainly has not inherited from her hermit-like mother, and they leave me in awe.
Sweet Ana, goofy Ana, emotionally fragile and sometimes sly Ana. Ana with her love for science and high goals, her disorganized ways and sense of responsibility. How lucky we are to know her, to get to celebrate her, to learn what we can from her and enjoy her while she is with us.
Simon is away right now, so we celebrated her coming of age (as they say) as a family last week. Since she was four, she has begged to have her ears pierced, but we waited so that it might be done now, as a symbol of this passage in her life. We took her out for coffee and gave her a pair of earrings mined and cut in Zambia. And then we went and had the piercings done under the supervision of Harold the Moose.
But not as pleased as we are to get to call her our daughter. We are so very proud of her. We love her so.