There were times when she was a little girl...no mistaking it.
Her girlish enthusiasm...
Making faces and sticking stickers...
And there were times when she was a woman.
Beside her father's grave...
Filling out the pink dress...
I came to Honduras to be there for her quinceanera, the Honduran cultural portal into womanhood. I've seen enough birthdays to know that there is no magical transformation that occurs. Fourteen and fifteen look pretty much the same. We don't grow in years; we grow in seconds, minutes, days.
I haven't been able to spend many of those growing moments with Luz; I haven't watched her slowly blossoming into womanhood day by day. And yet I feel like, in more ways than one, Luz's quince was just what it should have been.
I think she will look back on that day as a dividing point in her life.
There were a lot of lessons learned, I think; big girl lessons.
She walked all the way to Gracias Friday morning to have the beautiful curls flat-ironed out of her hair. By the time she made it home and to the church Friday at 5, ringlets were already curling around her face. Nothing is perfect.
The time came. I climbed the stone stairs in the twilight, catching a last lonely glimpse of Luz in the dusk, waiting for her moment. It was to be her entrance. 120 people were waiting inside. Sometimes, every eye is on you.
Propelled in by Yessi, she walked as if in a dream. She looked so elegant...more of a princess than I have ever seen in my life. She looked straight forward. I'm not sure she breathed the whole time. A brief smile flickered my direction as she passed my table. Sometimes, you have to play the part when you don't feel like it.
The production went on. Prayer, speeches, even a sermon...and then elements of the quince celebration. The changing of flat shoes for heels is usually done by the father. It was tender moment when Luz's strong, hardworking mother took her dead husband's place and changed Luz's flats for her Cinderella heels. Tears for both of them...growing up isn't easy.
Jonathan cried the most after he heard that Luz had no time to change when she got downstairs. She was herded into the back of Pastor Modesto's pick-up truck, dress and all. He thought of her walking in the dark, up the rocky path, across the creek...a true Cinderella, sobbing her way home. Every Cinderella has a midnight, and a real prince cries thinking about her (even if he is just a padrino).
I wanted to see a girl become a woman. In so many ways, the woman was already there. I came to Honduras sorry for Luz...sorry for her long walk, her poverty, her dead father...and I left confident that Luz would be okay. I left knowing that inside of Luz Maria is a strong, loving, hardworking young woman who can handle real life--with all of its nuances. I left knowing that there is still girl enough in her to dream and to pursue a better future.
I left knowing that there can never be a time when our family lets go of her hand...not to always lead her, but to walk beside her with love and encouragement for her life.