April 1, 1978, 6:30AM
Me: I think I’m in labor.
Russ: (Accompanied by uproarious laughter) Sure you are. Good one.
Me: I’m not kidding
Russ: Not falling for it. I’m no April fool.
April 1, 1978, 11:52PM
Me: I told you I was in labor.
Although I have had many April Fool’s day jokes played on me since then (including one by Anna involving a rubber band and a kitchen sink sprayer that will go down in history), my favorite joke that turned out not to be a joke was your birth. This is your birthday – your 40thbirthday. And that’s no joke.
You arrived on an unusually sunny, warm day. Your baby personality was the same. Easy going, happy, and except for a bazillion earaches, healthy. You were just the kind of kid to break in a 24-year-old mom who had no idea what she was doing.
Here are a few of the things that I remember about being your mom:
You were the first baby on both sides and much adored by your grandparents and (lucky you) your great-grandparents. You also had the great good fortune of looking just like your dad – which added to your mystique on his side of the family. Why is it that moms go through pregnancy, delivery, nursing etc… and the kid ends up looking like the dad?
Your first road trip at about 3 months old was a tour of Michigan with your future in-laws, husband, and us. No we didn’t plan it quite that far in advance, but more about that later. We toured Mackinaw Island on bikes, and despite all my best efforts, you got your first sunburn. I felt like the worst mom in the world and I learned that sunscreen must be reapplied hourly.
You survived the next several years, in spite of me and with the addition of two sisters, who added to the general chaos. Through all of it, you were still a happy little kid.
Your first sentence was “helping Daddy.” Again, why not “helping mommy?”
When we asked you at age 5 what you wanted to be when you grew up you told us that you wanted to be the first female major league baseball player. It’s good to have goals.
Now things were not always perfect. I specifically remember that after about a week of asking you what you had done in school and getting your favorite answer, “nothing,” I walked in on you telling Dad that he had to do something about me because I was “driving you nuts with all the questions.”
Life in Cleveland was a blur of activities, bomber runs, Girl Scout meetings (including the famous “overnight” at the Holiday Inn) and sailing. You were also getting ready for Jr. High… Ugh – I hated those years. They were the “grunge” years – flannels, crap jeans, mean girls, 14-year-old angst – and I still hadn’t gotten the hang of asking the right questions.
Something happened around that time – You found theatre and a world where you flourished. I remember seeing your first play in Jr. High. Dad leaned over at one point and whispered, “Who’s that kid, she’s good?” It was you. You had transformed into your character so well that he didn’t recognize you. You were good.
The theatre and the friends you made there carried you through your high school years. You shone while you were on stage. You found people who thought like you – who got it. When it came time for college, you headed off to CCM to pursue “the dream.” We were so proud of you and so terrified that you would join the legions of talented actors who never got a job.
Four years, a ton of work and graduation found you in NYC living “the dream.” Dropping you off at your apartment in New York for the first time was the hardest thing I ever did. As I got into the taxi to head to the airport I cried harder than when I dropped you off at college. The guy sitting next to me in the plane must have thought someone died.
Not long after you got to New York, I got “the call.” You just didn’t have the passion to make it in the business. Okay – so now what? Well, you had been working at a boutique hotel, so you thought you might try that. You took the “back office job” doing something called dynamic pricing and it turned out to be a perfect place for your talents. Who woulda’ thought that an actor and an excel spread sheet could make such beautiful music together?
Fast-forward a few of years, some very fun family Christmases in the City, a really bad boyfriend, and a move to Chicago. Now all three sisters were in the same city. This was a golden era for “the Rents.” We could drive 5 hours and spend time with all three of our girls, new grandbabies and enjoy the fun Chicago scene. It was like New York, but with wider, cleaner streets. You were so happy to be with your sisters again – and to be Auntie Em. I think spending time with the nieces prepared your for what was in your future.
Now flash back to the trip you took when you were 3 months old with your future in-laws. Here’s the rest of the story: 30 years later, the Yingers (future-in-laws), were ready to retire and chose Buena Vista, Colorado as their retirement destination. Our families stayed in touch for all those years after college and we decided it would be fun to have a two-family reunion, dubbed Schningerfest. Everyone showed up. Long story short, a couple of years later, you and Ben got married in a joyous wedding attended by friends from all over the country and Canada too. Now there are 5 more young Schningers attending Schningerfest. Chaos has moved out of our house and into yours. So much for the peaceful single life.
Over time you found an outlet for your creativity in crafting. You can make anything – and often you are working on a project while you are on a conference call for work (how do you do that?). You are still in the hotel business – now consulting from home (with five kids, how do you do that too?). You direct plays at your church and you are an amazingly patient mom. I’m pretty sure you ask all the right questions too.
It is so lovely to watch the trajectory of your child’s life. You have made your dreams come true. The only thing that would make it better for me would be having you closer. But overall, seeing you with your babies, beloved by your husband and living a life full of friends and meaningful work makes me very happy.
So Em, on your 40thbirthday, one last thing: Remember when you told me you hadn’t taken a bite out of the cake even though you had chocolate icing all over your face? This time, use a fork.
April 1, 2018
Me: Happy birthday my lovely child. Thank you for making me a mom. I love you.