"I'm going up Mount Elbert next Tuesday," she had said. A family picnic? "It will take about four hours to get up the mountain," she had said. That long a drive? They were always doing Colorado things. Swimming in a mountain lake. Running into a moose. Stealing away to a Vail chalet in the off season for the weekend. Dodging forest fires.
I confess I might not have been paying attention. But when the text came through that early Tuesday morning with a photo attachment of my oldest daughter, four months postpartum, decked out in heavy duty cold weather attire and standing in front of a monument sign with a map that read Mt. Elbert Trailhead, I began to suspect that I had might have missed something BIG.
It did not, however, surprise me. This was my Britty. The girl who once threw up for three hours straight before a highschool basketball game and then performed a flawless set of complicated cheerleading stunts without even bothering to look pale. The girl who thought she'd just go ahead and slip in a Chicago Marathon before getting pregnant two weeks later. . . in case she didn't get another chance. The girl who practiced for the DC Marathon by running the Denver Marathon a week before. . . the whole thing . . . and called to chat me up . . . while she was doing it.
This was the girl who once talked a naked old man out of an old woman's closet and back into his own bed (in his own room down the hall) without even flinching (or gagging) . . . and stoically and compassionately sat with another as he took his last breath. The girl who once cleaned a whole apartment from top to bottom, and then pushed a stroller down Michigan Avenue two weeks after a C-section because she was bored . . . and the girl who battled and beat post-partum depression and then had the courage to speak about her experiences from an internationally syndicated talk show out of Chicago to encourage other new mothers because she didn't want them to hurt like she had.
That's my girl. This was my Brittany Leigh, and it seemed perfectly fitting and even symbolic that she would be climbing the highest peak in Colorado (I did some quick research as she was on her way up) two months after the birth of her second child. Even so, as I sat at my desk working that morning, with the knowledge that my beautiful daughter was actually climbing a mountain, I felt a sense of pride and awe at her strength and resilient spirit.
I had worried about another bout of post-partum depression. She was worrying that she hadn't packed enough granola and that maybe her cell phone service wouldn't hold out. And though there was never a doubt that she would reach the summit, when the final text came through with a picture of her sitting atop the snow-capped peak smiling broadly, tattered American flag fluttering in the background, and all of the Rockies behind her, I caught my breath. There was my girl at the top of the world. Right where she belonged.