As I type this, you’re at your 8th grade dance. I can picture you, surrounded by girlfriends, giggling away. I asked your dad if he thought you would dance with a boy. Then, we both erupted in our own fit of giggles. You’ve got no time for boys, and I adore that about you, not in a “Daddy’s got his shot gun, Ally doesn’t date” kind of way. I adore that you have no time for any of it because you are focused on YOU, and making sure you are lining up your own future, all for yourself. “They’re so ridiculous at this age, mom. The boys are ridiculous.” They are. You have two middle school brothers. It’s no secret how we all feel about them. Ridiculous. There will be time for all the boys later, when this ridiculous phase has passed.
It’s a little surreal to me that I’m sitting here editing pictures from the last night before you officially become a high schooler.
Didn’t I just bring you home? Wasn’t this yesterday? You were eating your first piece of pizza and telling me “It’s no good.” I think you only licked it. I don’t think you even bit into it. Trying new things was not for you. No thanks. I blinked and you grew up.
Tonight as we got ready to go and I watched you comb your hair and put on your dress, so confident and so ready for this, I reflected, the same way I do every single time we hit a milestone, on how far you’ve come. You were once a little girl who was asked to give an oral presentation in 4th grade. We practiced and practiced. You knew it by heart. I went to cheer you on, to provide moral support. You cried as you stepped in front of your class. You absolutely couldn’t do it. Every single thing overwhelmed you.
When you got here, we weren’t your mom and dad, and you weren’t ours, at least, it didn’t feel that way. You struggled. You struggled so hard to learn to read and write. You had been a “top student” in Ghana. It devastated you to learn that we didn’t grade the same way here, that not everything is about memorization, that our schools wanted you to think outside the box. Slowly, so slowly, you accepted that you would have to start from zero. You were basically functionally illiterate in the 3rd grade. Hours and hours of tutoring, of reading together, of learning how to write. We had so many talks about college, about your goals, about how you deserve a chance at all of them. So much convincing that if you want to be college bound that daddy and I would help you make it happen, that you are worth it.
So, tonight as I sat in an audience of hundreds, in an auditorium filled with your peers, your mother who prides herself on never crying sat in one of the back rows and grabbed your dad’s hand, tears pouring down her face, as they called your name for the Jefferson Award. An award given to only four students who have achieved the highest honors. Scholarship, citizenship and the embodiment of everything the school looks for in a student. You hadn’t told us you had won it. You wanted to surprise us.
I wept, Ally. I wept for the little girl who had seen things that no 9-year-old should ever have to see, for the little girl who had to grow up too fast. I wept for the little girl who came to a country with excess of everything, but who felt she deserved nothing. I wept because you dusted yourself off and let us convince you that you could do it. I wept because in this picture, I can see the woman you’re becoming, and you are so, so amazing. I wept because this journey, your journey, the one I have been so damn lucky to get to be a small part of, is something I know you didn’t dare to dream of for yourself, but it’s something that YOU made happen. I wept because I am so, so proud of you.
You walked up onto that stage with almost no trace of the little girl who used to think she couldn’t do it. You took that award and held it so tightly. You did do it, Ally. We’re moving onto a whole new adventure now. High school is going to bring so many new opportunities. It will open so many new doors.
I see you standing there, Ally, looking through that open door, ready to move through it. With that step, you’ll move a little further from daddy and I. We missed so much with you, yet, we didn’t. You wouldn’t be who you are had Ghana not shaped you first. So, in some ways, I want you to hold onto all of it as you move onto the next thing. We’re here, daddy and I. Ghana, and your first family, are never far either. They’re waiting, when you’re ready. All of us. We always will be.
It’s your moment now though. You take the lead. We’ll follow.
Go shine, Ally.
You are so very worth it.
–FullPlateMom, who is holding on to every second.