Happy birthday to you, my sweet seven-year-old girl! My girl who referred to herself the other day as “almost a teenager.” Whoa there, you need to slow down! Seven is plenty big enough for now.
When I wrote to you last, we were a week into our month-long trip to Costa Rica. What fun I had sharing that adventure with you, Pipa. You seemed to be having fun too, but I wondered if the trip could possibly have as big an impact on you as it did on me. Did you even realize how grand the adventures were? How unique the experiences?
I don’t know the complete answer, but I got a hint of it when we were on our night hike in Monteverde. Our guide was an energetic young UGA grad who proved to be a great audience for you. As we walked along the trails, looking for creatures, you began to tell him stories about our trip. Tale after tale fell from your lips, your enthusiasm growing with each retelling. And you weren’t just telling him about the big moments, like seeing the turtles laying eggs in Ostional. You also wanted to share with him the quieter moments, like when we got you out of bed one night to stand on the roof of our beach house and marvel at the fireflies and the huge expanse of stars. “They were so beautiful!” you told him, your voice raised in excitement. That night on the rooftop is a memory I will treasure, and now I know it’s one that was special to you too.
I suspect Costa Rica seemed very wild to you. After we’d been there about a week, roaming the empty beach and only occasionally visiting an isolated village, you began playing “pioneer.”
“Mama,” you’d say each day, “Let’s pretend we’re pioneers. We’re the first ones to discover this beach and we have to invent everything.”
You gathered driftwood to build pretend fires. You discovered caves, and would instruct me to come there with my sea glass and trade for “food,” which was usually a mix of leaves and sticks and shells. You filled a bowl with beach sand and tossed in a few hermit crabs to make your “famous hermit crab stew.”
You spent almost the whole month outside. I don’t believe you’ve ever been as muddy or filthy or as unconcerned about it. It was wonderful.
By the time our trip was winding down, however, you were ready to come home – more ready than your Dad and I were. I think you longed for some familiarity and some normalcy. Oh, and there was the pretty exciting fact that you’d come home and have a birthday!
Since returning, both Boo and Nana have given you some pioneer dress-up clothes, and you’ve hardly worn anything else. Even your doll Addy has pioneer clothes. You insisted on wearing one of the outfits to Krispy Kreme to pick out your birthday doughnut. You were a sight, in your bonnet, watching the doughnuts come down the conveyer belt. You made me smile.
Our gift to you was a kid-sized kayak (in pink, of course), so after we polished off the doughnuts we took a boat up the Skidaway River. Your kayak is small enough to fit comfortably on board, and when we spotted a group of dolphins we dropped anchor and pushed the kayak into the river. We weren’t quick enough to catch the dolphins, but had a blast paddling around in the water.
You wanted to explore the mud flats that are exposed at low tide, so we paddled over to them. You pretended it was a new, foreign land and we had to settle it as pioneers (of course). Jones and Auntie came too, and experienced the way the mud slurps at your feet and squishes between your toes.
Unfortunately, you and I also learned the hard way that there are oyster shells – very sharp oyster shells – buried under that mud. After scratching your foot and leg, you were ready to get back on the boat. You pulled a towel over your head and declared, “I AM NEVER GETTING IN THE WATER AGAIN.”
Maybe you are almost a teenager, come to think of it…
The next day, we held your birthday party at a local pottery studio, where you and buddies made horse-themed crafts and even got to throw clay on a wheel. I couldn’t find any horse-themed tablecloths or plates in town, so you chose Star Wars table decorations.
A horse-themed party and a horse cake, with Star Wars plates, cups and napkins. Sounds about right.
Sweet girl, my Pipa, I could not be more pleased with who you are at age 7. And I couldn’t be more excited to see what this year holds for you. My love for you is wider than the expanse of stars we saw on that roof top in Costa Rica. It’s really big, and it goes on forever.
I love you always.