Once upon a time a mother thought it a good idea to write a letter to her little daughter. The letter’s purpose was to share some of her heart for her little girl, as well as to tell her that she quite recently learned that one should be careful what you pray for. It’s one thing to wish for something, the mother thought, but to pray for it… Well, let’s just say that she believed with all her heart that a prayer transcended a wish in all regards. And so she started.
I quite honestly do not know where to start. It’s tricky to describe the enigma that is you. Sometimes adequate words do not exist here on earth, I guess. It’s always a good idea to start at the beginning, so that is what I’ll do. It all started on a bright January afternoon about a week before your due date five years ago. I decided against my wish to have a normal delivery and opted for a caesarean instead. Too many uncertainties swirled around at the time with your daddy going overseas and the fear that he might miss your birth. And, admittedly, I welcomed the control the caesarean brought along. The date was set and that was that. No mess, no fuss… Only, I woke up during the night two days before your scheduled due date with a strange pain in my back. The timer on my phone confirmed that I was having contractions. No hospital bags packed; no plans in place… A little more than twelve hours later you made your presence known with your first scream while I lifted the roof with my own in the midst of the pain of a normal delivery. (A little note to myself here: Be careful what you wish for…) Lots of mess, lots of fuss, lots of blood… You decided that no one would decide how and when you entered this world. It would be on your terms and yours alone. My education in laying down control had only just begun…
Even though you do life on your terms and by your unique rhythm, you do so in complete awe of your Creator and creation. Just the other day, as you were playing with dough, you took the cover of a Tupperware container and pressed it into the dough. The stripes on the cover of the container transmitted to the dough in what looked like the rays of the sun. In between the stripes you put a bird and a butterfly.
“Wow, look,” I said, “It looks like the rays of the sun!”
“Of course it is! It’s the beloved bird and the beloved butterfly!” The look of confusion on my face prompted you to run to your room and bring back the Children’s Bible. You opened it at the scene of Jesus’ baptism. The illustration of Jesus in the water between the rays of the sun shining down sure is beautiful.
“Remember?” you asked. “Here where God says, ‘This is my beloved son’? Well, this is the beloved bird and the beloved butterfly!”
“Wow! That is amazing! And do you know that you are His beloved too?”
With a beaming smile, you confidently replied, “Of course I know that! I am beeeaaaaauuuuutiful!”
You sure do not fit into my carefully decorated boxes. What is most riveting about this is that you also have no desire to. That counts for everybody’s boxes. It was evident from a very young age that you absolutely delighted in this symphony called life. So many times I can only look on in complete bewilderment and ask, “Where on earth do you come from?” The photo that captures this best was of you at about three months, sitting in the middle of a sea of colourful plastic balls, arms outstretched and hands wide open, symbolically receiving and loving life with all its might. No fear and no holding back. Your smile was bubbling over as your laugh always does and your eyes sparkled like the most radiant of dawns. Another photo is the one at the top of this letter of when you discovered the incredible bliss of chocolate cake batter at one year old. I never thought that something like batter could be one’s best friend but, hey, you sure have shown me that basically anything on this earth has the potential to be!
Your thick, curly hair often falls like that of a lioness around your face. You are fearless, uncompromising and bold in your love for people. Yet, you have the softest heart that makes me think of infinite marshmallow clouds. Clouds that make people feel completely safe in this world as they lie on their backs with their arms behind their heads, surrounded and covered by it. People are your fundamental passion in life, your greatest gift. You see the hidden beauty in them, which means that you do not see the things that this world often tells us are ugly. When you sat next to your great-grandmother in the final, agonising days of her life, you told me while holding her hand, “Mommy, grandma-great is so pretty.” You carry your little friend Annie, whose little body is rigged with disabilities, around like she is your most precious possession. Just the other day, as so many times before, I watched your passion for people play out in front of me.
“Guess who is coming to visit you the day after tomorrow?” I relayed the news to you that two of your friends were coming to visit. I’ll try my best to capture in words the scenes that usually occur after you receive such life-changing news. It’s like a fountain that has been lying under the surface of the earth for thousands of years, building and building energy and desperately longing for escape. The build-up to that moment of sheer eruption is more profound than the eruption itself. In those moments after you hear the news, a million switches turn on in your brain. Then…
“What? What? What? Mommy! Oh, mommy! Thank you so much! Thank you! Thank you for my gift! Thank you! It’s the BEST GIFT!” After you do your victory lap with screams that echo far beyond human capabilities, you usually approach me like a rocket with arms wide open. You tackle me by the legs with such force that I lose by balance and fall backwards. The impact of your astounding joy and excitement leaves me breathless and off-balance. Come to think of it, this is the best way to describe my general state of being during the past five years.
You are able to pinpoint another person’s silent desires. About a week ago, with almost steely determination, you abruptly got up and said, “Mommy, I’m going to visit my friend next door so you will be able to have a bit of peace and quiet in our house.” When I received the devastating news of a loved one’s death a month ago, you stayed by my side the entire day. You stroked my hand and hair, looked me in the eye and said, “Mommy, you can cry. I’m here…” You refused to leave my side.
The patience you harbour for yourself is something I am baffled by. The other day, I watched you load a bunch of stuff in the pram for your pony. The pile was getting higher and higher, but you kept loading. When you pushed the pram, most of the stuff fell out. You stopped and loaded everything back again. Once again most of it fell out. Once again you stopped and loaded everything in. By the fourth or fifth time, you told your pony in a soothing voice, “Don’t worry, everything will be fine.” By the seventh or eighth time, no jokes, you were laughing in what I could only interpret as sheer delight. You kept going until you found a way to get everything on board without any of it falling off.
I remember when you were obsessed with being a butterfly. Once, when you had your face painted like one, I tried to fasten your seatbelt.
“Please sit on your bum! I have to fasten you!” I asked, exasperated.
“No! I am a butterfly! Butterflies have long bodies, no bum. So I can’t sit!”
Once again, breathless and off-balance. Your ability to think on your tiny feet makes it impossible for me and your father to be a step ahead. Since becoming your mother, I ask myself the question often, ‘But are we really supposed to be ahead of you?’ You have an old and gentle spirit in the way you perceive life. You weren’t even three years old when you noticed the discrepancy between the front and second pages of a Sunday newspaper. The front page showed the devastating aftermath of forest fires in Knysna with houses burnt to the ground and people in incredible pain. The next page was almost cruelly spread with an interview with an arrogant lawyer and one of the pictures showed his blood-red Ferrari.
“Mommy, maybe he should give his car and money to the people on this page,” you pointed with you tiny fingers to the front page.
Being in your presence, whether it is to walk or sit or eat or do pretty much anything, is to be in the midst of a gentle tornado. I never thought one could use ‘gentle’ and ‘tornado’ in the same breath, but, yes, that is how it is. While you make your presence vividly known with your inability to contain your energy, you still stop and smell the flowers. You will still make time to great everybody along the way and look at them in awe. I find myself in the middle of the fractal that is you. It’s exhilarating, mesmerizing, however tiring at times.
These are but a few things that bring me to the core of my letter to you today. Why do I say all this? Is it to brag about the wonder that is you? Maybe a little bit, I mean, I am your mother after all and bragging is part of my job description. The real point of it all is to tell you that I often ask out loud and in silence, “Where do you come from?” For you are unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in my life thus far. You shatter my perspectives completely, you bring life in abundance that I sometimes don’t know how to live. I feel completely incapable of matching your energy and joy for life. And I feel inadequate to raise the wonder that is you. I can’t comprehend how God could give me the daughter that is you given the abilities and joy that I lack.
Until the other night… I slumped down on my bed, exhausted, and asked you for what felt like the millionth time to go to bed. You just wanted to tell me one last thing. I picked up some old diaries and browsed through them. I read many things that completely left my mind. I almost missed the entry that contained God’s direct answer… There, in my own handwriting, red on white paper, the following:
“23 May 2013… Five and a half weeks pregnant! This week your heart begins to beat, little one. Your organs begin to develop. God, please give this little one a unique, blessed and precious rhythm for You, your people and for this life.”
Yes, I prayed for exactly that. I prayed for the very things that I write about in this letter. And now I know that God is indeed involved in every little detail of your life. ‘Be careful what you pray for’, I tell myself. No…
Instead I pray, ‘I thank you, God, for answering my prayer in ways that leave me breathless and off-balance. And thank you that you will never give me what I can’t handle. Thank you for the wonder that is my little girl.’
With all my love,
And that is all she needs to know now.