Letter to Camille: 126 Months

Hello sweet dear and Happy 126 Months to you! Right now, you and your Daddy are out in the neighborhood, trying to avoid alligators and find fish. You got a fishing pole for Christmas, and have been eager to cast a line in one of the lagoons near our home. Seasoned neighbors congratulated you on your new gift, but offered stern warnings to watch out for alligators.

The first time you and your Daddy went fishing, he reminded you to look for alligators before choosing your fishing spot.

“You mean like that one?” you asked, pointing just off the water’s edge where an alligator sat doing whatever it is alligators do (sleeping? watching? plotting?).

I’m glad to know you have a good eye for them, and the two of you scooted further down the shore. The fish didn’t bite that day, but then again neither did the alligator, so I call it a win.

We had a wonderful Christmas, surrounded by family. The weather was gorgeous, so you and the cousins spent Christmas day outside trying out your new “heel wheel” skates from Boo.

And you loved your gift from Nana and Granddaddy – an American Girl doll. But not just any American Girl doll. While this doll isn’t part of the look-alike series, she might as well have been cast as your twin. She’s a blondie… loves marine biology… and her name is Camille.

You’ve been saying for some time now that you want to be a marine biologist when you grow up. While I know these passions will likely evolve and change as you do, I admire the tenacity with which you are already pursuing your goal. Just the other day we somehow got on the subject of the periodic table of elements. I casually mentioned that one day you’d probably have to memorize it if you wanted to be a scientist.

So the next day, Friday, this is how you began your weekend: immediately upon coming home, you grabbed a ruler and sketched out the periodic table. You then filled in all the boxes, and have now set to work memorizing them. For fun.

Somewhere along the line you have learned such a valuable lesson: that goals can be reached with hard work. Rather than just saying you want to be a marine biologist, you understand there are things you can be doing – even now, at 10 years old – to move closer toward that goal. You understand that you’ll have to work hard, but you also see it as attainable. The challenge is welcomed and accepted.

I have no idea if your father and I get to take any credit for this. Likely it’s a combination of many things – your own nature as a person, your Montessori education – but I’m so glad because I believe this motivation will serve you well in life.

This is one of the lessons your Daddy and I hoped you would learn by playing an instrument. No one is born able to play the viola, or clarinet, or guitar. Sure, some people seem to have a natural ability, but everyone starts as a fumbling mess. Everyone’s first “Mary Had a Little Lamb” sounds awful. And there’s no secret shortcut for getting better – you have to be willing to learn, and you have to practice.

And you have been practicing, and improving tremendously. In fact, all your practicing almost had us in the dermatologist’s office.

About a month or so ago, I noticed an abrasion on your neck around your collar bone. I asked what happened, but you didn’t know, and didn’t remember a scrape or an injury. So we slapped some neosporin on it and put it out of mind.

But weeks later, it was still there. Shiny and pink, it looked like a shallow skin injury that was trying to heal, but wasn’t improving and wasn’t going away. We had decided to take you to the doctor next week.

Then Saturday, at orchestra rehearsal, when you brought your instrument up to your shoulder you felt a now familiar twinge, and finally made the connection. The mark on your collar bone was from the contact of viola to skin.

We looked it up online and there’s a name for it – a violin or viola “hickey.” Among serious string players, it’s often seen as a badge of honor. When Sotheby’s was preparing to auction a Stratovarius violin, the auction consultant looked for violin hickeys before allowing musicians to try the instrument. The mark is seen as proof of a strings player’s dedication.

Right now you just find the mark annoying and slightly embarrassing, but I must admit to a certain amount of pride on my part. It’s probably the only time in your life that your mother will be proud of your hickey, so enjoy it.

When we took our annual New Year’s Eve camping trip to Disney with the Gaddys, both families brought along instruments. You had your viola, Daddy had his guitar. Lola brought her ukulele and Fletcher had his violin.

You wanted to practice, but with no music stand there in the woods we improvised with clothespins and the rain fly of our tent.

When you weren’t working out new music, the four of you would improvise around the campsite. It was wonderful, and those jam sessions were a highlight of the whole trip.

We did all the usual activities: biking around the campground, swimming in the heated pool, eating novelty food, enjoying outdoor movies by the bonfire, and even snoozing on the beach waiting for the midnight fireworks show.

But my favorite memory is this – you and Lola on the back of the golf cart, performing “It’s a Small World” for the whole campground. Ashley would drive you around the camping loops, and you’d play the song on your viola while Lola strummed chords on the ukulele and sang.

Some people ignored you, but many more would lift their heads as you all rode by, sweet music trailing in your wake. They’d point, they’d wave, and sometimes they’d even applaud. The two of you sounded so beautiful together, and I loved watching you spread a bit of Disney magic around Fort Wilderness.

It was a pretty fantastic start to 2017. I’m excited to experience this year with you, my girl. Mama loves you so very much.


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