My second daughter, Emmy Lou, was Bat MItzvahed on June 25th of this year. I wrote the following tribute to her and wanted to share it this month as a celebration of her 14th birthday.
Emmy Lou Strongwater was born ready. At 4:30 I felt a contraction, at 6:30, we had a baby. The doctor’s words, and I quote, were this: “ I was lucky to catch her. “ And as Coach Oscar and Ernie and Brett and her teammates can attest, people have been trying hard to do just that ever since. Emmy’s middle name “Lou” is in memory of my father, Louis “Doc” Meyers, who she would have melted like butter and whose grounded wisdom she possesses. But Emmy brought many amazing qualities of her own to the dance, and the one most abundant from arrival was EXUBERANCE. Em is so full of joy and energy for life that often she has trouble staying upright. We like to think of her as vertically challenged. We laughed when going through many of her early pictures because as often as we could, Lee and I had her in a helmet. When Mr. McCarthy her fourth grade teacher called to inform me that Emmy had been to the nurses office 19 times due to falling-related episodes I know he thought I was a bad mother when I laughed and said: “That’s just Emmy.”
And while I remember waiting for Annie to say her first words, I honestly don’t remember when Emmy DIDN’T talk. I feel like she was born chatting and almost everything she said was smart or funny, even if she didn’t get the words quite right. If I ever dared to interrupt one of her monologues she would give me this exasperated look and say. “Mom you’re ERUPTING me! Stop ERUPTING me!” In grade school when Em would get frustrated with the boys she liked and their teasing and age-appropriate boy behavior she’d say, “Mom, I’m exponentially more mature…” And trust me, that’s the word she used.
Beyond the exponential maturity. Emmy has a unique in-your-face directness that has been both amazing and hilarious to watch. She was about four when we were dressing in the Louisville Rec Center locker room after a swim and she observed her first pair of thong underwear. In her raspy, no-volume control voice she announced to all within earshot: “Mom—her butt’s sticking out of her underwear!”
Beyond the shocked woman in the locker room, no one has been spared her acute, to-the-point observations. When she first met Scott she looked him up and down and said two things. “Are you mom’s boyfriend?” And when he said yes, she replied, “You look like Elvis Costello.” She was seven. Three or four years later I heard her arguing with her dad and mid-tirade she scolded, “Dad, you’re off topic. Stay on topic!”
So what do you do with a kid like that? Listen mostly, and try and stay out of the way. And that’s what we’ve done. We’ve marveled at her on the soccer field, the track, the basketball court, and the classroom. We’ve witnessed her hustle, her diligence, her kindness, her humor and most especially her tremendous heart. My favorite soccer moment—and it’s a very telling one— happened a few years ago when Jamie Turcotte made an unbelievably beautiful pass that allowed Emmy to score. Jamie got hammered on the play and she was still on the ground crying a little bit when I saw Em go up to her, hug her and whisper something in her ear. After the game I asked Emmy what she said to Jaime and she said she told her it was HER goal. Last month, a middle school mom came over during a track meet to tell me that she heard the girls in her car talking about how Emmy was nice to everyone and how she was the kid who would stick up for whoever was being teased. I was proud, but not surprised. Emmy knows how to make everyone feel good, including her parents. When I am having a down day, she will pat my back or start imitating Kristen Wiig from Saturday Night Live or suddenly there will be a note on my desk telling me I’m doing a good job.
So all I can think of to say at this point is: WHAT A KID…..
I look around this room and feel so lucky and so grateful that Emmy has such wonderful people in her life and I thank all of you for being here and sharing your love with Emmy. You are the village that it takes. In the meantime, as Emmy makes this leap into adulthood I would like to say: I love you, I am so proud of you and my hope and my wish is that you keep rocking the free world and that you PLEASE, PLEASE, try and stay upright while doing it.