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?