The snow is lovely, bright and deep / but she has promises to keep / and miles to go before she sleeps / and miles to go before she sleeps.
Frost’s classic poem is, of course, haunting in its original form, but is it any more haunting than a cold winter afternoon spent trying to entertain candy-cane-jacked, snow-mad kindergarteners who have already declared that they are ‘NOT SLEEPING UNTIL SANTA COMES MOMMY YOU CAN’T MAKE ME’? Is it? IS IT?
Yesterday was Emilia’s birthday. She asked for Zhu Zhu Pets and a guitar. “Because I’m going to be a rock star when I grow up, Mommy, and the Zhu Zhu pets are going to live in my pockets, so I can play the guitar with them.” I didn’t tell her that aspiring rockers usually keep rats in their pockets. We have no room for any more feral creatures in this house.
(Do you know Zhu Zhu Pets? I had no idea until a few weeks ago, when Emilia started asking for them. They’re basically, like, robotic hamsters. Seriously. My first thought when she opened them was, oh, okay. So they’re robotic hamsters. Which means, some of the charm of hamsters without the hamster shit and all that shredded newspaper. I can live with that. Then I realized: THEY’RE ROBOTIC HAMSTERS. I’m pretty sure that robotic hamsters are mentioned specifically in the Book of Revelations as harbingers of the coming apocalypse. Or maybe it was The Apocalyptic Gospel According To James Cameron. I can’t quite remember. Doesn’t matter. HAMSTER ROBOTS.)
Today, you are five.
This is both totally extraordinary, and utterly ordinary. Which of these it is varies from minute to minute: in one moment, I look at you and think, when did you become such a big girl? Where did that little baby go? Where has the time gone? HOW IS IT POSSIBLE THAT YOU ARE FIVE? In another, I look at you and I think, wasn’t it ever thus? Have you not always been this little girl, this little big girl, this here-and-now person who is so completely and utterly you that any other yous, all the previous yous, are almost unimaginable?
That you are five and that you are you and that you become ever more you – ever more consistently you and ever more differently you – with every passing day is, for me, a joy for which I have no words. But it is also a sadness, an ongoing grief – a quiet grief, the kind that just hums, quietly, in the darker corners of my soul – and for it, too, I have no words. How do I describe the feeling of celebrating you and mourning you, all at once? Of the joy that I feel in your presence that thrums with a nagging sensation of loss? The complicated happiness that is loving the incomparable you that you are now and aching to discover the incomparable you that you will be tomorrow and missing the incomparable you that you were yesterday, last month, last year? The sweet sadness that comes with yearning to find out who you will become while clinging to the you that you were?
Last week, Emilia went to school in a Snow White costume. She wore it with striped leggings and her hot pink skate shoes, the ones with the sparkly laces, and also a baseball cap. “I’m not really a princess, Mommy,” she informed me, “I’m just pretending to be one, because I like this dress.” Which summarizes her approach to fashion more or less perfectly: the determining factor, for Emilia, in selecting any article of clothing – shirt, pants, shoes, underpants – is simply “I just like it.” How things fit, whether or not they match, whether or not they are in season: these considerations are irrelevant. All that matters, to Emilia, is whether or not each individual item of clothing appeals to Emilia’s unique and ever-changing tastes, and whether the resulting outfit reflects to her, as she puts it, her “own self.”
This is Emilia, then, as her “own self” (Sporty Pretend Princess Edition):