Today is my youngest daughter’s birthday. She was born at 4:30am seven years ago and when I woke up this morning I, quite naturally, thought about the morning of her birth. Oddly, the first thing that comes to mind about actually having N was not quite the moment of birth itself, but the moment that I first learned something about her, which came a few minutes before. It had been a long night of labor, and in those final minutes when it all came together and the panic and pain and exhaustion were literally roaring through my brain I have this image of the midwife sitting on the end of the bed so calmly, tipping her head down a bit and smiling as she said, “It’s a blondie.”

So that was the first thing I knew about N. It’s a blondie. And, oddly, that strange single, non-medical and inessential bit of information brought her to life. It made her (even though I didn’t know she was a “her” yet) different from her sister, her father, or even me, as I am blonde but had been born with a lot of darker hair, volume rather than color being my hair’s primary characteristic. N, however, was different from the start, platinum and smooth, a being utterly unto herself.

In the cascade of information that followed: sex, sound (oh, that kid had lungs), appetite, weight, length, and even an actual name, it’s funny what little bits stick with you. Once the hullabaloo of pictures and phone calls was over and the darkness of night had given way to a cold, rainy day, I remember lying in bed with Jim and N, eating egg sandwiches and wondering how on earth we were going to cope with having two of these little beings now. It’s a good memory. Sweet. Somehow it fits so well with my notion of her at age seven, with her long streak of blonde hair that she won’t let me touch, her missing front teeth, and her insistence that I not carry her birthday cupcakes into school for her, but that she do it herself.

They say it goes so fast, and it does. The truest thing anyone ever said to me about parenting young children is “the days are long, but the years are short.” Seven is a lot of years. It’s hard to imagine, even though it isn’t imaginary. She’s as real as anyone I’ve ever met.