Letter to Camille: 112 Months

Thumbnail image for Camille at 112 Months

Happy 112 Months to my sweet girl, who is currently crooning “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” while her Daddy plays guitar. This song has been a favorite of yours lately, and you spent quite a long time this morning (and a lot of pencil lead) transcribing all the words into your notebook, and then rewriting the whole song in the secret cryptic language you and your friends have developed. 
So much to love about that.

Secret Language

I remember being in the 5th grade and passing a note to my best friend Erica, written entirely in pig latin. Our teacher – a strict, stern disciplinarian – intercepted the note on its way across the room.
“I am now going to read this aloud to the class,” she announced, expecting me to shrink in embarrassment. I did wonder for a moment if she knew pig latin, as I watched her unfold the lined paper. But then she wrinkled her nose and said, “This is just nonsense,” and crumpled the note. 
Score for me. 
I approve of these kinds of secrets – the kind that show you developing special bonds with your crew of friends.
In addition to a secret language, you’ve also discovered a secret hideout. Our first couple of months here in Costa Rica, you were reluctant to wander away from our yard, for fear of snakes, creatures and the general unknown. 
But this last month, as your familiarity and bravery have grown, you’ve begun wandering out a bit. I love this, because back home I don’t feel as good about letting you trot off down our busy city street by yourself. But up here on our gravel mountain road, I feel like I can unravel the umbilical cord a bit farther. 
When your friend Agnes was visiting, you two decided to strike out on your own in search of a secret space. You spent a good deal of time packing your backpacks with everything from bug spray, to crackers and nutella, and even your camping knife (just in case). 
Off you went down the driveway, saying your good-byes as though you might be gone for a while. 

Searching for a Secret Hideout

You did find a secret spot, and I wondered if you’d let me see it too. Sure enough, the next day, you invited me to come with you.
You packed your backpack again, but also decided to bring along a light wooden nightstand. “I need something to put my water on,” you said, as though this were an obvious necessity. 

Heading to the Hideout

Your secret hideout is simply magical. It’s just up the road and into the woods a bit, where many years ago someone began constructing a home. For whatever reason, the home site was abandoned to be reclaimed by the jungle. There are paving stones covered in a carpet of green moss, “great for dancing on,” you told me. There is a stone wall crawling with vines, reminiscent of some old, forgotten castle. 
Secret Hideout

Mysterious WallMossy Pavers

And beside it all is a view of the sea. You spread your blanket out on the soft green moss, placed your water on the nightstand, and began to read a book. So I did the same. 

A Hideout with a View

It was peaceful and lovely, albeit a bit buggy, and as charming as could be. I loved to see you there, and was so thankful that you wanted to share it with me. 


I’m definitely seeing evidence of you moving into a new phase of life now, where your peers become more and more important. This is natural, and this is good, but not without a few pitfalls. One is that you care more about your appearance – not so much from a place of vanity, but of a desire for acceptance. 
When the school year began, we bought your school uniform. We had the option of a polo shirt with shorts, polo with a skort, and a dress with the school logo embroidered on the chest. We got a couple of each, thinking you’d appreciate the options. 
I hadn’t really noticed that you’d only been wearing the polo and skort until one day you didn’t have any clean skorts. “So just grab your dress or some shorts,” I said, which earned me an exasperated glare. 
“I don’t want to wear those,” you said. Much prodding on my part finally got you to admit the problem. “Only the little kids wear dresses, and none of the girls wear shorts.”
We were out of time to do anything about this, and frankly I thought it was an opportunity to reinforce that you should be your own person and not worry so much about your clothes. So you begrudgingly pulled on the shorts and went off to school. 
Now I had decided to turn this into a “thing,” and that afternoon began badgering you about wearing your dress the next day, too. “Why did I even buy it,” I asked, pulling a guilt trip, “if you’re not going to wear it once?”

You were near tears – tears that I could not understand – until you told me that the boys at school had made fun of you that day for wearing shorts.

I felt simultaneously angry with the boys, upset on your behalf, and even more fired up that you should have the confidence to wear something different. “But mom,” you pleaded, “no one in my grade wears dresses.” 
Finally, we agreed to a compromise. You have two of these dresses, and Agnes loves dresses. So we gave a dress to her, and you both agreed to wear the dress on the same
day. That way, you wouldn’t be the only one in a dress in 4th grade. I promised if you’d wear it once – just once – I’d never make you wear it again.
You moped all the way through your morning routine that day, and dragged a little more slowly than usual to get to class. I wanted a picture of you and Agnes in your matching dresses, but knew better than to ask for a pose. So your Daddy snuck a pic when you weren’t paying attention. 

Matching Dresses

At the end of the day, you were all smiles again. “Everyone loved the dress,” you said. 
You’ve worn it a few times since, always on the same day as Agnes. It still makes you a little uncomfortable to be wearing something different, but I’m proud of you for doing it anyway.
But there was one clothing battle this month that I really and truly did not expect nor understand. And I feel like I should document it here because one day I think we’ll get a good laugh from the story. 
You wear socks to school every day, but are asked to leave your tennis shoes at the classroom door to help keep the rooms clean. So this means you run around in your socks a lot, and it shows. 
There is one pair of socks in particular you love. The funny thing is, there is NOTHING special about them. They are white Hanes crew socks, but you like how they fit and how they feel. 
Sadly, the heels of the socks became thinner and thinner until they finally had a hole. However, this didn’t deter you from wearing them at every opportunity.

Holy Socks

One night after dinner, with your feet propped up on the couch and your pinkish skin showing through the holes, your Daddy said the socks had seen their final days. “Those socks look awful,” he said. “It’s time for them to go in the trash.” 
You begged and pleaded for him not to take the socks, and we thought it was all a fun game until he walked over to actually take them from your feet. You clutched onto them and began to sob. “But I love these socks,” you said between choking tears. 
Your father and I stared at each other, mouths agape. What was this about? Was this really about socks? Was it about something deeper, like a way to cope with the unfamiliarity of your surroundings? You seem to be adjusting so well, but had these socks somehow become like a security blanket of sorts? 
We realized pretty quickly that we weren’t going to be tossing them in the trash, but they really were quite pitiful. So you consented to let me patch them. You wanted me to sew a piece of fabric over the hole. I agreed to sew them the next day, so that night you kept them on your nightstand with a stern note for any would-be sock thieves.

Do Not Steal!

I  hadn’t realized how difficult it would be to sew a patch around the inside of a sock heel, but I managed it, and you were very grateful. 


We lovingly dubbed them your “hobo socks,” and you still enjoy wearing them to school, to bed, everywhere. 

Hobo Socks

I’m sure as you grow older, as you struggle with your own changing feelings and moods, as you try to find the balance between dependence and independence, we’ll have many more incidents like this one. And we’ll try to find the compromise each time. 
And I have to admit, now that I spent so much time sewing those socks, and now that I know how much they mean to you … I kind of love them too. So one day, if you decide to toss your hobo socks, I’ll be the one digging them out of the trash and putting them somewhere special. Because they’re a reminder of you – in all your wonderful, quirky ways. 
I love you so much sweet girl.

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