My Daughter’s Birthday

Posted on 17 October 2004

Happy 18th Birthday Gillian Kathleen Young

My daughter is so French,

She adores chocolate in the morning,

Dancing in the evening.

She sways her hips to music

every chance she gets.

She loves language

Hates the stupidity of sensationalist news

describing wars and bloodshed,

Loves Paris cafes and fashion

French kisses (or so I imagine.)


I see her as a little girl, her back to me, trudging up a grassy hill,

in France, searching for wild flowers with Susan and praising this friend, four

times her age, when she discovers one first.

“Oh you are so clever, Susan.”

I picture her at the Eiffel Tower, angry at me because I

forbid her to climb to the top with her brothers.

I see her in Verona, sitting across from me at a small cafe,

sharing a tomato salad and spaghetti Bolognese, discussing Romeo and Juliet;

and again in Milan, following me around the Rudolph Nureyev

exhibit, exclaiming when I touch the giant’s tights and

points to the sign forbidding such an action.

I see her again on a boat from Greece, where she managed

the language much better than me, sleeping late

in a room with many bunks, barely awake when we

disembark in Italy because she stayed up

most of the night talking with some English bloke.

I see her in Nice, sprawled out on a park bench,

barely able to raise her head, unable to lull beside

the Mediterranean because she went out the

night before and drank too much with several

Americans we met on the train.

I remember her beside me in Northern Ireland,

lugging bags from the grocery store,

swaying to traditional music in Irish Pubs,

and best of all, snuggled beside me in my bed in

our cold, damp flat, reading poetry.

I see her this summer, sitting across from me

in a sleazy restaurant across from the train station,

in Toulouse telling me to catch an early train back to our village,

and not wait for her to catch hers to Paris,

to London, to the airport, to Toronto,

to start her own life. (Was she afraid of my tears?)

That’s the last time I saw her.

And she writes to me as if I’m the best mother in the

world and I want to cry and cry again when I read her public journal

when she despairs about eating and drinking, her

passion for beautiful things, her failures in love, and

bemoans the fact that she is human. I am so glad she

is and even happier that she can write about all.

I am astonished at her clarity of thought,

her earnestness, her honesty, her curiosity, and

her playfulness.


(To paraphrase a country and western song)

She’s Kathleen’s granddaughter

The spitting image of her father

And when the day is done

Her momma’s still her biggest fan…

Should her tender heart be broken

She will cry those teardrops knowing

She will be just fine

‘Cause nothing changes who she is…

She is Kathleen’s granddaughter…

And her momma’s still her biggest fan…

She’s a saint and she’s a sinner

She’s a loser, she’s a winner

She is steady and unstable

She is young but she is able…

Confessions of a Young Woman

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