I feel like I have to stand back and just look at you, Ana, my dear. In my heart, you are still this little girl, captivated by fairies, climbing trees and misspeaking in the most endearing ways. Your hair hangs in ringlets, and your eyes are wide and full of questions and curiosity. The cliché lives in me: I blinked and there you grew, almost like the hole in time that's missing from this blog.
For so many years, you've been called my little twin. Folks have commented on how similar we look to each other, how similar our temperaments are. It has been hard from me to separate us, even in my mind. So often, we respond exactly to life and its surprises, challenges, frustrations. Too often in your short life, my dear, I have put my own anxieties about life on you. I am working so hard to undo this, as you are just as you should be, and life is what it is. Forgive me for seeing you too often as an extension of me. You are uniquely you, and you are a wonder.
More than any other time in your development, I'm keenly aware of how separate you are from me. And by separate, I mean individual. I thought I had dealt with this at many other points in your development, as you've shown your preferences (how can you not like tomatoes?) or grown talents that I couldn't imagine. I mean, you knit with your fingers. No needles. Just fingers.
This year, this big growing year, has taught me so much about you, and WOW, ANA. You are one strong girl. Forgive me for sounding surprised, because this is consistent with who you have always been. You have always possessed a physical strength, strength of character, and strong will. But this year, you were tested in ways that showed me how you handle adversity, and I have only been able to watch, and figure out when and where to insert guidance, if at all, because in the end, you've been going through it alone. And I have learned so much from you- you, my little butterbean, have helped me find my own courage.
Sometimes, you would cry with so much intensity at the changes beyond your control, that I would swallow my words. I soon learned that this wailing soon gave way to a peaceful calm and resolve. That it was good to just hold you and be there, and that I couldn't fix it with, "It will get better." I'm so grateful that you let me try to comfort you, and hold you. I needed to try to fix it in some way. It is a privilege to get to hold you, my dear, as you were going through something all alone. I couldn't make it hurt less or take it away.
Slowly, I've seen you shine in new ways that have surprised you, too. Harder school work means flexing new muscles, and you're fully equipped. You've been enjoying hard work, and thinking deeply, as you always have. And you've enjoyed grades, which are new. You doubted yourself in these early days, thinking there was some kind of mistake that you were admitted. You kept at it, Ana, and I can see this as a source of confidence once again. Now, you're getting comfortable, and those grades are slipping a bit. I couldn't be happier to see you less anxious, and equally eager to learn. In the end, it all averages out. You put a great deal of pressure on yourself, my Ana. But you're already amazing. Anyone can see.
Beyond school, which has dominated so much of this year, there are the most important things. The "how you look at the world." It is fascinating hearing you grow, and I'm grateful that you talk to me about so much. You love Mr. Wray, your science teacher. One night, you said to me, "Mom, I love science and Mr. Wray. Sometimes, when he's teaching us, he'll start talking about the problems that happen in the world, and it's things I haven't heard about before. Life how the fertilizer in people's lawns hurts the animals in the lake. And then, I can't sleep. I'm so worried about it." Learning how the world works, or doesn't-- is so overwhelming. It like your big sob of helplessness. I feel it too, in this crazy world and this violent city. Your big heart, and your powerful mind are trying to figure these things out, like one of those puzzling math problems that we wrestle through.
There must be something we can do, right? You always want to help, and make things better. Your compassion for others and for animals especially, is a beautiful gift. And your sense of justice can raise the roof. On a recent school trip to Barrataria, you described your favorite part: an activity where you stood in a circle with your classmates, each of you touching something that was alive. And then you were asked to touch elbows with the others in the circle. You described the electricity between you and your classmates as you could feel the life moving through you. Your eyes dancing, we could all feel the electricity too. It's an energy you bring to all of life. An excitement to learning, connecting, and experiencing. I know this enthusiasm will lead you on many adventures, and through them, you will find healing for the things that hurt. I know you'll be a problem solver, even if it's to feed one person in need.
This year, you went to a service knitting fair, and learned about so many nonprofits in the city that do good work. You marveled at runaways, lead poisoning, veterans of war, and supporting literacy. Who knew there were so many issues, and of course, helpers. So many helpers. You've loved knitting for WWII veterans, and next- baby hats. Love can heal. Even when we aim to help, we end up healed.
Sometimes, you and your brothers wage world wars 3, 4 and 5 over the slightest of slights. I can kind of see your patience growing in this area. Kind of. I hope that you grow less ashamed and embarrassed of us all. We really love you. And I know you really love us. After Elliot's recent success in dressing himself, we talked about how hard it must be to get dressed with one arm. You disappeared into your room, and when you came back, you were wearing new clothes, rolling your eyes. "Wow, that was really hard." Last night you had your brothers play a game and earn points that they could spend on knick-knacks in your room. They were thrilled- Oliver with his dried plant (magic wand) and nest of chicks, and Elliot with his bright pink puppy box filled with shells, and a disco ball necklace. Very motherly, you touched his shoulder and said, "I'm so proud of you for being Student of The Month, Elliot." This reprieve from your usual death threats was such a treat.
I wonder how you'll manage all these feelings about yourself and the world, and see creativity and nature as tools that are of great comfort to you. You love to make things, whether it's sewing or knitting a something, or arranging a collection of leaves and seeds like a beautiful bite from Mother Nature. You've been taking us all to do "Magic Spots." Armed with journals, we find our spot behind the levee, and write or draw whatever we feel. Your vision of the world shapes and changes us, Ana. You make us think differently.
Being your mama has made my life. You are as much a marvel to me at age 10 as you were that first minute in the hospital, wide-alert eyes, Ana. I look forward to all that we discover together each year that we are blessed together.
Over these 10 years, you have festooned me with Japanese magnolia petals written with love notes, built fairy houses from sticks and leaves, found "leaf bones" of decomposing fallen leaves. They've become a part of the earth, separate but inseparable, now. Much like you and me. I treasure all of it.