Today, at around 7:30 PM, Natalie will be 21 years old. I'm sitting here struggling to figure out how to summarize 21 years in one blog post, and I'm not sure it can be done. Some highlights, then:
Natalie was supposed to be born on October 19th, but we figured she would follow in what had become a family tradition and be born on the 20th. Her second-cousins Lauren and Aubree were born on the 20th in 1986 and 1987, respectively, and her cousin James was born on the 20th in 1988.
Natalie has been an individual from the start, and wanted her own private birthday, so she was born 7 weeks early instead. She weighed 4 lbs. 4 ounces and had fuzzy reddish-blond hair and blue eyes.
Those eyes stayed stubbornly blue past her first birthday, and then changed to green just to spite some of her relatives who insist that a true Roth has blue eyes. (Never mind that all the Beattys except me have green eyes...this child is a Roth, where are her blue eyes??!)
During the 17 days she spent in the NICU after she was born, the nurses tried to keep her wrapped up in blankets. She would always wriggle out of her expertly-wrapped blanket and scoot up into one corner of the isolette.
She would also wiggle one foot free and hang it over the edge of the tray in the isolette. Even as an adult, all these years later, if she is crashed on her bed napping that same foot will very often be hanging over the edge of the bed.
I think Natalie's first word was either "mama" or "dada" (I can't remember, but I'm putting my money on "dada") but her first phrase was "I do it myself!" Beyond just a phrase it was her personal motto as a toddler. She wasn't belligerent, she was just very, very confident. :)
And brave. I remember sitting at the park with my mom, watching Natalie at 18 months traipsing across a hanging bridge apparatus on the playground equipment. She was surrounded by older kids twice her size, the bridge was bouncing, and she was just plowing across without a fear in the world. My mom, on the other hand, was about to have a heart attack and was seriously concerned about my lack of parenting judgment.
But who does Grandma call now when she needs someone to scramble up a porch railing and hang Christmas lights or crawl up into the attic to find something that's been shoved to the back. Yep.
Natalie will always be my First Baby and she was my guinea pig for so many things. She was the one who cried for hours as a baby when we tried to let her determine her own bedtime (we were insane is all I can think), ate nothing but chicken nuggets and fish sticks for way too long while her dad and I grew backbones and learned to say "no", and later she was the victim of the Figure Out Our Homeschooling Philosophy years. I'm not sure how to put a positive spin on this, but we didn't kill her and I don't think we damaged her too much.
I could go through a year-by-year summary of her teen years, but fortunately for both of us I don't remember a lot of details as well as I remember her early years. I know, and Natalie will attest to this, that she lost her brain for a couple of years between age 14 and 16. But she found it again and it was none the worse for having had a little time off. :D
Even when she was in the flaky-brain teen years she was still sweet, loving, respectful, creative, kind, and a hard worker. There were many days that I would not have made it through without her help. She has been my assistant, my right hand, my sounding board, and my best female friend for years.
As an adult, she is still brave and confident. She meets people easily and makes friends easily, even though she is shy and introverted on the inside. She loves adventure...she always the one in the pictures clinging to a tree on the edge of a mountain, the one who decided she wanted to learn to contra dance and convinced her friends to join her, the one who still scares her grandma...but now by whipping her car into the driveway at high speed.
Natalie loves God and wants to please Him in all she does. She loves her family and her friends. She works hard and her employers trust her judgment. She is still always learning, always growing, always moving on to new adventures...and she is still my First Baby and always will be.
Happy 21st birthday, Natalie, with love from your Mom :)