Letter to Camille: Forty-Eight Months

The Birthday GirlHappy 4th birthday my big, big girl! We have finally wrapped up an entire week of birthday fun, during which you were spoiled, loved on, sung to and celebrated a whole lot. We had several small parties, like your cupcake party at school and your special birthday lunch at The Crab Shack. But the big celebration was on Saturday, when your friends joined you at Norwood Stables for a pony party. It was so great!

My CowgirlYou appropriately donned your cowgirl hat and boots for the shindig, and took great interest as the employees saddled the ponies at the start of your party. As a horse person myself (perhaps horse-obsessed person would be more accurate), my heart melted when I saw how sweet and tender you were with the ponies. You weren’t afraid of them, but you were respectful and kind, offering gentle rubs and soft words.

Giving Peanut Some LoveWhen it was time to ride, you hopped happily into the saddle, but as soon as the horse started walking your face grew grim and serious. I wondered if you were nervous. Or were you upset? Had you wanted to ride the other pony instead? I couldn’t figure out the cause of your sour mood. “Camille, are you okay?” I called out. You nodded your head yes, but didn’t drop the stern face.

Cowgirl FaceThen I remembered. The last time you put on your cowgirl hat, I asked to see your “cowgirl face.” And it was serious indeed. Somehow, you’ve decided that cowgirls are a very serious bunch. So the whole time you rode, you kept your cowgirl face on, except at the very end when you started merrily chanting “Go pony, go!” over and over to your four-legged friends.

Despite the scowl, there was no doubt in my mind that you were enjoying those ponies. You took turns with your other friends, but eventually some of them grew tired of riding and wandered over to the table for snacks. But you kept riding, until finally I had to ask you to come join us for pizza and cake.

While I will try not to push my own hobbies and interests on you, I sure did enjoy watching you loving those ponies.

Though it may have been a pony party, it had a Totoro theme. You still love Totoro, the mythical Japanese forest spirit that has been described as a cross between a rabbit, bear and owl. You adore your stuffed Totoro toys and love the Totoro movie. We were happy to oblige with your Totoro party request, but it did require some creativity on our part. Party City does not carry a “Totoro” line.

So we improvised. We ordered some tiny Totoro toys from Hong Kong as party favors for your guests. Your Daddy created Totoro gift bags, cutting and assembling each one by hand. You wanted balloons, so he drew Totoro faces on them. Then I worked on your Totoro cake. You delighted in everything, making the extra effort worthwhile.

An Army of TotorosTotoro Gift BagsTotoro BalloonsTotoro CakeAlthough the party was a great success, it was actually our Plan B. Our original party plan was to rent a bouncy house for the backyard, because bouncing is one of your favorite things to do.

But it was not to be. About ten days before your party, we were vacationing with Uncle Jeff, Aunt Michelle, Stella and Jane in Florida. You fell off a couch onto a brick floor and hurt your shoulder. You cried so hard that I knew it really hurt. There was no bruising or swelling, but you didn’t like to lift your arm or have any pressure on your left shoulder at all.

Before I go on with the story, let me back up and say that you had earned a reputation as an overly-sensitive drama queen. Take tonight, for example. I was giving you a bath when you suddenly screamed, jumped to your feet and started to cry. You began yelling, “I’m done! I’m done with my bath!” through a voice thick with tears. What brought this on? One of your band-aids was starting to come off. You were afraid it would hurt when it came off.

So, fast forward to your shoulder injury. We decided to give it a few days, based on your prior overreaction to pain. It didn’t seem to bother you most of the time, just when you moved in certain ways. After three days of this, we finally took you to the doctor. To find out it was BROKEN.

Your broke your collar bone. And we didn’t even know it. I AM SO SORRY!

I feel terrible about not taking you to the doctor right away. They expect it to heal well on its own and didn’t do anything to treat it, so it’s not like we delayed treatment. They just said no bouncy-house birthday party. But still, I hate to think you were walking around with a broken bone and I didn’t take it seriously. We went to see an orthopedist after we found out it was broken. He had you do a series of movements to lift and move your shoulder. You did them, very slowly and carefully, and he said to himself. “Wow. Tough girl.”

And I felt even worse! All this time I’d been calling you a drama queen, when in reality you can be quite the tough girl. So tough that the orthopedist was impressed with your pain tolerance. After I got over the shock of his statement, I had new found respect for you, my tough girl who also likes theatrics from time to time.

Despite your injury – and perhaps because we didn’t yet know the extent of it – we had a good time in Florida playing on the beach. We got some great pics too.

Beachy NiecesRunningDaddy's Beach GirlChecking Out the FishWe gave you your birthday present a couple of weeks early this year because it just wasn’t the sort of gift you could easily hide. Your Daddy and I got you a playhouse – a for real, wooden, shingled, awesome playhouse for the backyard.

New Playhouse!Your Daddy and our friend Allen built the house, which has a nice faux-wood floor and working windows with screens. It looks great in the backyard under our shade tree, and there’s plenty of room inside for a table and a tea party with your new Jessie doll.

Playhouse Tea PartyI got to relive a beloved childhood memory with you earlier this month – picking blackberries. We went to the local Coastal Bamboo Farm and walked up and down the lanes in the berry patch, plucking ripe blackberries from
the thorny vines.

Picking BlackberriesI have very distinct memories of
carrying my Grandmother’s wooden, woven baskets down the dusty dirt roads around her farm,
picking blackberries. I’d put one in the basket and about 5 in my
mouth. It took a really long time to fill the basket that way.

we’d walk down their long driveway back to the house where she would
make blackberry cobbler. My Grandmother has been gone for several
years now, but as you and I bent over the blackberry vines –
braving the brambles for the juiciest berries – I felt
my Grandmother was still close to us.

I regret that I never got
my Grandmother’s blackberry cobbler recipe, but Boo shared one with me that is very good. I want to share it with you too, so that one day maybe you can make our blackberry cobbler and remember picking berries with me too.

Don’t forget to serve it up warm with a bit of vanilla ice cream.

Fruit Cobbler

2 cups fruit (in juice, or add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of sugar to fresh fruit to create juice)
1 stick melted butter
2/3 cup self-rising flour
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup milk
dash of cinnamon

oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in pie plate. In mixing bowl, combine
flour, sugar, and milk and cinnamon. Add batter to butter, don’t stir!
Add fruit, don’t stir! (I put the pie plate on a cookie sheet in case
some of it spills over during cooking.) Bake for 45 minutes. Sprinkle a
little more sugar on top when finished.

Thank you for four of the best years of my life, sweet girl. You may be getting bigger and turning into a tough girl, but you’re still my baby, and still sweeter than fresh blackberry cobbler with ice cream on the side. I love you so very much.

Beautiful Camille

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