Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Amazing Miss J.

M was nearly a year old now and Miss J. had turned three.  There is a palpable sadness for me when I reflect on the previous year, not just for M, but also for Miss J. The endless medical appointments and time spent in the hospital had taken me from her.  So had therapy: driving to therapy, fighting with insurance companies on the phone to cover therapy and the hours spent practicing all that was recommended in therapy at home.  I too, had taken myself from Miss J.  Too many time I was in her physical presence, but had been far away emotionally.  My heart breaks to think there were times she must have believed that her mother was too tired, too sad, too angry, too busy to enjoy her.

Miss J. was never your typical child. She was just...different. She glided effortlessly through most milestones.  She spoke her first word at 6.5 months and by 11 months she was putting two words together.  Shortly after her first birthday she was speaking in sentences.  She was inquisitive, bright-eyed, deep, logical.  Her depth of understanding made her an easy baby and toddler.  If there was something we wanted her to do/not do, we simply told her and she understood.

I remember a day when she was just two and we were at the grocery store.  I was in the meat department contemplating buying chicken legs for dinner.  Miss J. looked at the package, then at me, and said with utter surprise, "There are fourteen chicken legs in here!"

"Yes, you are correct!  Nice counting!"
"No mommy! You don't understand! This means seven chickens had to die."
No, I didn't understand.  I didn't understand how a two year old had just put all of that together.

When she had just turned three, I had walked in her room one day to find her curled in a ball and rocking back and forth, sobbing heavily. I was alarmed and ran to her.

"Oh mama, " she cried, "There are so many hurting people in this world and I cannot help them."
She was just three years old.

Shortly after that she had decided, on her own, that she would donate her hair to Locks of Love.  She was three and a half the day I brought her to the salon for the twelve inches of baby-soft golden hair to be cut.  The hairdresser looked at me, scissors poised at the base of my daughter's ponytail and said, "Don't cry, mom!"

Clearly annoyed by the remark, Miss J. looked at the hairdresser and told her, quite firmly, "Excuse me, this isn't a sad day.  This is a happy day.  A little girl who has no hair is getting some."  Three years old.

I think she had sensed too, that initially we were concerned about M's survival in those early days, for one day she looked at me and said, "Mama, I have figured out death.  When a person is born, it is already decided how many days they will live. Some people get a lot of days.  Some, not so much.  And when you have lived your days, you are done.  You die.  It is okay, mama, because that is how it is supposed to be for that person."

Again when she was three and Christmas was drawing near, we were heading into the grocery store to buy ingredients to make cookies.  Outside the store, the Marines were collecting for Toys for Tots.  Miss J. stopped, looked at me and said, "Oh, so I guess there is no Santa."

"Why would you say that, baby?"
"Because if there were, there wouldn't be that," she said, pointing at the Toys for Tots collection.  She shrugged her shoulders and went in the store.

Yes, this was Miss J, the old soul packaged in a tiny body.  The girl whose depth and innate intelligence both awed and frightened me. The girl who rarely cried.  Who never got angry at Mr. A or I. Who never resented her brother.  A girl far too logical for her three years on the planet.

She is mine. She is a gift.
How could I have missed so much?

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