When I was 10, I saw the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen in my whole entire life. I couldn’t put my finger on what it was right away, so I stared a little longer until it came to me. She had the most beautiful red hair decorating her face like a sunshine spotlight was following her. I was captivated.
I turned to my mom and said, “Look! Her hair! It’s magical!” I couldn’t let it go. It was too perfect. “I hope when I have kids, they have red hair!”
At this my mom stopped. “Oh honey,” she said patiently, “That’s not very likely. It would have to be a miracle for that to happen.”
We were a family of brunettes; mine so dark when I was born that it appeared black. My family was unified in our non-red or blonde or anything-but-brown hair. My mom gave me a quick explanation of the hows and whys of genetics, and I knew the impossibility of a red-haired baby.
I pondered her explanations and I decided I logically had only one option: to ask the God that my family believed in to bring me a baby with red hair when I was grown. I had been learning that miracles and magic were direct gifts from this God, but I was skeptical of the existence of such a being. Santa, for example, hadn’t turned out to be real.
I would put this God to the test. I made a claim that if he or she was a true real being, I would have a child with red hair. It would be the ultimate sign. It was comical, but also quite serious. I put this matter to rest and considered it no longer my problem.
As I grew up, I moved between the world’s definition and my family’s definition and my definition of some sort of “Source” that holds everything together. I moved far away from my ten-year old belief that I would need a magical sign to know a thing was real and forgot about the red-hair demands I had placed. There was Something here that moved humanity towards goodness and love. That’s all I needed to know.
I got married to a man named Aaron while he was still in college and working a million hours at a restaurant in town. I got my first teaching job and threw my every waking hours into my students. We had a tight grocery budget, an even tighter “fun” budget, and plans to do things the right way.
And then I got pregnant.
During my first year teaching.
While my husband was still in college.
Before I had even secured my official teaching license.
This was not the right way. This was irresponsible and stressful and, I’m now horrified to say, embarrassing. I fell into what I like to call “pre-partum depression,” and spent my whole pregnancy feeling quite sorry for myself for the way things had turned. I also felt immense guilt for not accepting this gift that so many people would have sacrificed much for.
I was also tired. And emotional. And young. I was a mess of a human and lost lost lost. What happened to the Thing that moved humanity towards goodness and love? This did not feel good, and certainly did not feel like love.
My body didn’t react well to the pregnancy–as if it weren’t ready either. I wanted nothing more than to get the baby out of me and I was angry at what it had been doing to me. My selfish attitude was clearly a sign I was not ready to be a mother.
Five days past my due date, I was waiting in a hospital bed to be induced. Apparently I wasn’t creating the kind of environment the baby wanted to enter into–surprising, I know–and she would have to be forced out.
I remember it being very quiet when Addy came into the world. All the appropriate personnel and equipment was filling all the appropriate spaces, but everything was quiet.
At the end I held my breath, and the doctor quietly said, “She’s here.”
But then her next words stopped my heart:
“And I think she has red hair.”
Time froze. My body froze. Aaron froze.
She said again, “I think this baby has red hair.”
I couldn’t make sense of this.
And I didn’t have time to. Addy was whisked away from me before I could see her. She wasn’t breathing properly and Aaron followed to be with her. I sat numb and confused. There were too many emotions to process and I hadn’t even seen my baby yet. Forty-five minutes after she was born, they finally brought her to me, all bundled up and safely breathing just fine.
They put her in my arms and I looked at her little button nose and chubby Cheney cheeks. I felt her warm body moving with her breaths. And then I slowly pulled back the hat they had placed on her head.
A full head of hair. Red hair. Red hair that had no business being on the head of our baby. Red hair that had no family history to bring it here. Red hair that I had requested as a child, testing a God I wasn’t sure I believed in, and had been delivered to me a decade later despite the nonsense of this demand. Simply because of goodness and love.
Addyson Paige has been this way since she changed my world at birth. She has beautiful red hair that decorates her face in the most amazing way. Every place we go, someone comments on her hair; she thinks it’s normal, that’s how often it happens. I refuse to accept it as normal. Not ever. Each time someone mentions it, I remember what her red hair means.
Addy is walking, talking–so much talking– proof that something holds this world together and wants goodness and love for us. Addy moves like a sunshine spotlight is following her. She has a heart made of faith and love and deep feelings for every beautiful thing. Her existence turns silly, ridiculous demands into beautiful truth. And her red hair was the first sign of everything she would be to my world.
Kelly Cheney is an eighth-grade English teacher, mom of daughters, and major nail polish enthusiast. She would love to hear from you via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow her on Instagram @kncheney — as long as you’re strictly interested in pictures of aforementioned daughters and/or nail polish.