Letter to Camille: 123 Months

Hello sweet girl, and Happy 123 months to you!

These last several weeks – well, they haven’t been our easiest. Nothing horrible, nothing life-shattering and all is good when viewed with perspective … but not our smoothest sailing for sure.

Things started well enough. The day after I last wrote to you, we did indeed complete the purchase of our home. That first weekend, we “camped” at the new place, sleeping on air mattresses in the living room. We painted several rooms, and then took breaks to enjoy the new trails around the house, or watch a movie projected on our blank dining room wall.


Your Daddy even taught you how to use a mailbox – such a suburban thing to learn after living with a mail slot in the door all your life.


The family time was great. Then, the day of our actual move came, along with all our stuff from the old house.

So much stuff.

It was overwhelming, really. We’d been away from it for so long, that each box contained mysteries. Sometimes we were excited to see what was revealed, but oftentimes your father and I just felt … burdened. After living so simply for a while, all our stuff felt heavy.

To us. But not to you.

And here we were at odds. Your father and I were in “purge” mode, ready to cast aside anything that was not useful or extremely sentimental. But to you, every little thing was both useful and sentimental. A large rock. A plastic cup. Forks you used as a baby.

We urged, begged and pleaded with you to help us pare down all our excesses. We knew the most difficult battle would be your stuffed animals. But we’d learned of a place we could donate your gently-used stuffies to be taken to children in an orphanage in another country. You have so many stuffed animals (you counted, and had over 120), and surely you could share?

So we sent you to your room with instructions to find stuffies to donate.

A little while later, I went to check on you. I found you sitting, sobbing, cross-legged in a pile of stuffed animals. A give-away pile was on one side and a keep pile on the other. I was impressed with the size of your give-away pile, but it was plain to see that each good-bye was costing you something. Tissues soaked in tears littered the new carpet of your bedroom.

And as my eyes scanned the give-away pile, I found myself feeling sad, too. Were you really giving away that stuffed animal? The one we got on that trip? Or the one I remember you carrying around when you were 5? Or this one? Or that one?

Purging is good. But purging is hard. It seems that most of our spare moments have been spent going through boxes, examining each thing and then examining ourselves and our need of it. And then I try to remember how happily we lived for a year with so little, and we keep divesting. Even when it hurts a bit.

But it all came to a halt. We’d had our eye on Hurricane Matthew, and the forecast wasn’t good. So early one Wednesday – a week after officially moving in – we packed up the car and began our evacuation.

Yet again, we had to ask ourselves what really mattered. What had to be saved. We brought our pets (including Noel, who took up far more than her fair share of room in the car), and we brought computers (with photos) and important documents. The rest, we left behind.


It was a stressful week, watching the news, watching on the television screen as the storm came barreling up the coast toward our home and community. We’d chosen our new house because we wanted to be near forests and near the water, but our timing didn’t seem so great with concerns of flooding and damage from fallen trees.

But we did our best to find distractions to keep us from obsessing over a storm we could not control. I took you to the Georgia National Fair – a favorite childhood past time of mine that I was excited to share with you.


So many of the rides were exactly as I remembered and it felt a bit like stepping back in time.

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You and your Daddy took a trip to the Indian Mounds, exploring the amazing artifacts and beautiful grounds.


And in between, we read books. Colored. Played games. You offered massages because you could see we were stressed.

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And finally it was time to go home and assess the damage. I was a bundle of nerves. Driving to our house, my stomach felt sick as I took in all the downed trees. Just so many, and such large trees. Trees that had been standing long before I was on this Earth – felled in an instant by high wind. Everywhere we looked, there were reminders of our own fragility.

So it seemed almost miraculous that no trees fell on our house. One giant tree crashed in the yard, and we had family, friends and neighbors with extensive damage. We had a lot of debris clean-up to do, but our home fared well. And most of all – I reminded myself – we were all shaken but safe.

And somehow October flew by. You enjoyed your church Halloween party with buddies this week, and then a Halloween-themed costume concert with your youth orchestra.

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Tomorrow is trick-or-treating, and then November marches in.

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Meanwhile, we’re still unpacking. Still settling in. Still purging. The process is slow, but with purpose – and with renewed perspective on what matters most. Like family. Like friends.

Like you. I love you so much sweet girl.


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