A Letter to My Daughter, 07/10

Dear Emmeline:

And so it begins. You're five now, and there's very little baby left in you. Now, your father and I spend most of our time marveling at how grown up you are. You now roll your eyes at us when you're exasperated. You can finally pronounce "computer" and "penguin" correctly. You prefer iCarly to the Wonder Pets and Dora (although I turn the channel most of the time). You are most definitely, officially, now a little girl.

And a girly-girl at that, I might add, which never ceases to crack me and your father up. (As you will one day figure out, I am not very girly--other than when it comes to shoes.) Your favorite colors are pink, purple and red, and you have reported to me that when you grow up, you will live in a pink house with purple polka-dots. (You have also graciously informed me that your dad and I can come and live with you in the pink house, but that Tchoups must stay here.) You scream when a bug comes anywhere near you.

You are a pack-rat extraordinaire, and I worry that one day I'll see you on that A&E show, Hoarders. You cannot walk down the street without stopping to pick up a rock, a leaf, or a piece of trash that has instantly captured your imagination and transformed itself into a treasure. I have to clean out your room clandestinely, to prevent you from trying to negotiate that we keep every single last little token you've collected--and let's not even mention the Mardi Gras throws. The last time I cleaned out your room (while you were at school, I might add), I collected three garbage bags full of stuff to get rid of--you've yet to miss any of it.

You've successfully completed your first year of "big girl" school and have also now navigated the strange and confusing world of New Orleans summer camp. You've learned to swim like a little fish and no longer insist that we take your "floaties" to the pool.

You have, after five years of life in post-Katrina New Orleans, begun to absorb the realities of life in a city in recovery. You now understand why some of the houses here are "broken." When we drove through central Florida last week and we passed by a patch of blackened trees, you assumed that Katrina had been responsible and said as much. After a year in Catholic school and having learned about Noah's Ark, you have the two "great floods" jumbled in your mind and sometimes talk about what Noah must have done after Katrina. And sadly, you sometimes need reassurances that even though lots of houses got broken after Katrina and the big flood, lots of the houses are fixed now, including ours.

You are absolutely nothing like me, in so many ways. You walk into a room full of strangers and, although you usually experience about three minutes of my shyness at first, you steel up your courage, square your shoulders, and make a friend. You are an eternal optimist and often cheerfully tell me that "it's all gonna be okay, Mommy." You love having books read to you but have absolutely no interest in learning how to read them to yourself yet, which makes your bookish mother worry sometimes.

When you crumble your lower lip, hang your head, and let the tears come when your dad or I reprimand you, it makes my stomach turn over (although it's then that I have to steel up my courage to follow through).

You are beautiful, oh so beautiful. So beautiful that it sometimes makes my heart feel as though it lives outside of my body.

I love you, pretty girl.

Love, Mom


French Bean & Coffee Bean said...

That was a very lovely letter...

-French Bean

esphixiet said...

I teared up a little, reading this. If I could be a fly on the wall the day she reads these letters... wow!

chrissie said...

This is beautiful. My daughter has started to formulate a concept of Katrina--just this evening, when we were driving downtown and saw the hordes of Lutheran volunteers swarming the Superdome, she asked if they were here because of the hurricane. Amazing--both sad and beautiful--that they have this history.

Quigley News said...

I just came across your blog, and having one very special daughter myself, was totally captivated by your story.
My daughter is now 33, and has given me 3 beautiful grandsons. She will always be my gift, my joy, my daughter.

My name is Diane and I live in NH.

ALM said...

Thanks to all of you for your wonderful comments!

Chrissie, I think you're right that our children's experiences of growing up here post-Katrina are both sad and beautiful.