She is the baby I didn't think I'd ever have. My surprise third child; born a month too soon into a sad and crumbling marriage, just one year after I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Her dad left soon after she was born. I was lost: I hadn't quite graduated from college, I had three little children, an uncertain medical future, and was alone in a city hours from family and friends.
But I had a funny little baby to hold onto when I cried, and she was with me while I threw all my husband's things into the street and packed up and moved into a smaller house. I found a job, and together we drove around the city delivering medical transcripts to doctors' offices so we could all eat. She was in my arms while I made the decision that if I was going to be poor, I might as well be poor surrounded by people who loved me, and the four of us moved back to my hometown.
We all went to school--I went back to community college to learn a marketable skill, Sam and Annie went to first and third grade at my old elementary school, and Lillie went to preschool. Things went from really grim to just difficult, but we scrimped and thrift-shopped and eight years later, we bought a little house for all of us to live in. One by one my kids grew up and moved away, as it should be.
When the going got tough in Chicago, Lillian did what I did twenty years before--she moved home. And as it was for me, I know she'll get back on her pegs and fly away again.
But at least for now, she's once again my partner in crime, driving around with me just like we did all those years ago in Sacramento, singing along to the radio.