Letter to Camille: 129 Months

Hello sweet bear and Happy 129 months to you! Just now I was looking at the calendar, and realized you have less than 4 weeks left of school. Fewer than 4 weeks are left in your entire elementary school career – HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?

You are entering that in-between phase, when it’s not always clear what you’ve outgrown or what you’ve grown into yet. This month we had the 5th installment of the Heidel/Hensley family Easter Egg hunt, which we’ve miraculously kept going year after year despite families being flung around the globe from Washington, DC to Costa Rica. As Jessica and I were hiding plastic eggs around our yard this year, she asked, “So when are the kids too old for this?”

It didn’t take us long to decide the answer: never. I think as long as we-the-parents are willing to stuff eggs with sugar, you-the-children will find the eggs for our amusement and reap the candy rewards. This arrangement still suits us.

Last month saw some firsts and some lasts. Your first Easter sunrise service, which dawned beautifully at the harbor just down from our house (and was popular with neighbors AND sand gnats).Your last field day as an elementary school student. Your first time playing bass guitar. Your last time hunting eggs at our church, as you’ll graduate to egg-hider next year.

But there is one event that is a standout in my memory – your first performance on aerial silks.

Back when we were living in Costa Rica, you loved your aerial yoga class. A long strand of silk fabric was hung like a hammock from the ceiling, and you’d crawl inside this cocoon to do different poses for stretching, strengthening, relaxation and meditation. When we returned to Savannah you wished for an aerial yoga class here too.

We didn’t find one, but we did discover an aerial silks class at the Savannah Children’s Theater. I honestly wasn’t sure you’d like it – unlike the yoga classes, aerial silks isn’t about getting into a zen state or gentle stretching of muscles. It’s about shimmying up a piece of cloth dangling from the ceiling and doing circus tricks with no safety net.

Some context here – you are not a natural daredevil. Perfect example: when you were 4 years old and taking gymnastics, you were terrified to jump into the foam pit. At the end of each class, the teacher would reward all the students by allowing them to climb on top of a 4-foot platform and jump into a pit of soft foam blocks. You would climb on to that platform, peer over the edge and then scramble back down. It took you 6 solid months to work up the nerve to jump.

Even last year in Costa Rica, I remember when we went to the Malanoche waterfall and your friends were happily leaping off rocks into the cool, deep pool below. It looked like fun, so you climbed up to the rock outcropping – and froze. You refused to jump and you refused to get down. You were paralyzed with a mixture of desire and terror, and stayed that way until I finally climbed up and jumped down with you.

So imagine my surprise last Friday night at your end-of-year aerial silks recital, when I watched you hoist yourself high into the air on the silks. You had to rely only on your upper body strength to climb up, and then dangling precariously you skillfully wrapped the silks around your waist and feet so that you could let go with your hands and hang suspended in mid-air. There were no ropes to catch you if you slipped, and no net to stop your fall. It was heart-stopping and it was beautiful.

I was amazed by all of the kids performing that night, but of course, I was especially proud of you. All year long you have loved your aerial silks classes, lamenting that you only meet once per week. But we parents don’t get to see your practices, so I truly had no idea what to expect and could hardly believe what I was seeing. My careful and reserved girl was suddenly so strong and brave and confident.

How wonderful as your mother to discover new things about you. I feel as though I’ve memorized every inch of your skin and every quirk of your personality, but then you grow and change and there is something new for me to learn. Being your mother is an adventure, and one of the greatest pleasures of my life. I love you so much, my silkworm. So much.

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