Today is my youngest daughter's birthday. I have mentioned many times how proud I am of her. Forgive me, because I'm going to do it again.
From a quiet, determined youngster to the accomplished woman she is today, Christina has always filled us with awe.
When she was three, my father looked at her and said, "I don't care what she's doing. you'd be a fool not to put money on her." He was right, as usual.
When she was very young, her name was "Christy." Early in elementary school she came home and announced that her name was "Christina." And it has been since that day.
She had specific tastes. She didn't care for Nancy Drew. ("A turnip-brained fathead," said she, channeling her inner P. G. Wodehouse.) Any television show she liked was cancelled after one season, or less. The only show she liked that did not face early cancellation was Magnum, P. I. She videotaped the show where Magnum died (he came back the next -- and last -- season) and labeled the tape "SACRED MAGNUM TAPE -- DO NOT ERASE!
In junior high school and high school she worked with us at a local Actor's Equity Theater. Between scenes the actors would help her with her homework. (One actor, who spoke fluent Russian, unknowingly gave her all the wrong answers to an assignment about Russian history.) Invariably, she would get a crush on one of the actors and, invariably, that actor would be gay. At the theater (and at every other gathering where she volunteered) she conducted herself with a warm friendliness combined with a professional gravitas.
In high school she and her sister and another friend started a group to help integrate students with special needs into regular student activities. As a member of the high school band, she traveled to England, Germany and Austria to play in concerts. She also traveled to Japan as a Foreign Exchange Student -- the youngest selected that year. When she was inducted into the Spanish Honor Society, she used the opportunity to pull a prank on her high school dean, one that he would remember fondly for years. She participated in school musicals, always in the background.
Christina was shy as a child. She was not happy we told her she had to (for example) buy a stamp at the post office and return the change to us. She's used the same trick with her children (and they, too were not happy). We also made her bring roses on-stage for performers we knew at the end of concerts. Slowly she gained an inner confidence that she did not know she had -- even today it can be hard for her to accept how talented and adaptable she is.
In college, she worked part-time in a Crystal City muffin shop. After work she would take the muffins that were to be discarded and give them to the homeless near her D.C. dormitory.
Nothing came easy to her. Christina joined the George Washington University Tae Kwon Do Club and determinedly work to improve herself. One of the leaders of the club remarked, "Christina always hits a plateau and stays there while she keeps working to overcome it, then she suddenly makes a quantum leap in her abilities and hits a new plateau, and the cycle starts all over again." The plateaus eventually won her a black belt and elected her president of the club. The plateaus were also evident in some of her courses. The dreaded Summer of Physics has been burned into our brains.
Armed with her BS in biology Christina ventured out into the world, first working for an ambulance company, then becoming a paramedic and an EMT (and the lieutenant of her volunteer rescue squad).
She became an emergency room technician and the ER doctors were happy to see her because when she was on duty everything ran smoothly. A career change to cardiosonography involved some heavy-duty training and classes. She became an adjunct teacher of sonography at GW and worked at hospitals in Virginia before moving to her current position in Southern Maryland. Her skill and knowledge have earned her the respect of the heart doctors who work with her.
Christina has just finished a multi-year retraining and is now a certified sign language interpreter. I predict she will have as much success in this field as she has had in everything else she tackled.
She and her husband Walt live in an octagonal glass house (no stone throwing allowed) overlooking the Chesapeake Bay, along with two goats, three dogs, three cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and two hedgehogs. Soon a tegu will be added to the mix.
Oh. They also have three kids.
Mark, 15, is a quiet kid with a great sense of humor and a passion for soccer and track. Yesterday he found the first copperhead of the year in their garden. He's also a youth soccer referee.
Erin, 13, is whip smart and beautiful. She loves animals and fingernail polish. She has almost 200 different shades of polish and does a professional job of designing nails. Erin, too, is a youth soccer referee.
Both kids are sweet, kind, and honest -- the type of kid I wish I had been. Both were named Students of the Month at their respective schools this year.
The Kangaroo is the newest addition. He's almost three and was formally adopted this past January. He has a number of obstacles still to overcome (he was born drug-addicted and spent the first weeks of his life in the hospital detoxing). Christina and Walt have been working hard with the Kangaroo since they began fostering him when he was six weeks old. He's come a long, long way. He's smart and sweet and friendly and melts the hearts of everyone he meets.
All three kids are lucky to have someone like Christina in their lives. She fill them with love, humor, and a sense of responsibility. If only everyone could have a Christina in their lives.
Unfortunately, they can't. Fortunately, we do. Nyah, nyah, nyah!
So, happy birthday, Christina! We love you.