Monday, April 23, 2012


On Friday I said, 'I will miss eight-year-old Fred.'

 Una said, 'In the middle of the night eight year old Fred will take off all her clothes and then she will be in her birthday suit. She will run away outside and nine year old Fred will come.'

 Fred said, 'I think nine-year-old Fred will be the same girl as eight-year-old Fred' but there was a flicker of uncertainty in her voice. 'Eight-year-old Fred will rise up and go to Heaven,' said Fred.

 For her birthday, Fred wanted to get her ears pierced. I made an appointment and took her to the chemist (I wanted to go to a tattoo parlour, but Martin didn't approve). 'Do you want me to count to three?' Lauren the Beautician asked. 'Or do you want me to just do it?' 'Just do it,' Fred said. Bang. Bang. She flinched. It hurt more than she thought it would. She didn't cry.

 Later she joined the conspiracy. 'It didn't really hurt,' she told Una. 'It just felt like a pinch.' 'I just got my ears pierced,' Fred would tell people after we left the chemist - the ladies in the toyshop, people in the cafe. Only women though. She leaned forward to me at the cafe. 'All the women here have pierced ears.' My ears are pierced but I don't usually wear earrings. I was nine like Fred when I had mine done. I still remember the shock of pain, the loud noise of the gun.

Fred kept saying to me, 'I just got my ears pierced.' It was like she had to rethink herself. Our appointment was at 12.30. She was born in the early afternoon. So eight year old Fred really left then. And nine year old Fred, in the end, is really quite a different girl after all.
'Maybe one day,' Fred said to me that night before her birthday, 'eight year old Fred will visit. Maybe one day you will see her again.'

The ghost of the girl you once were is everywhere Frederique. She slips in and out of the shadows of your face, and in your brother's face who is so much like you. She brings messages from the past, but I cannot send a message back to her. She does not stay to notice what the world has become without her. She is a spirit of the wind, and nothing will pin her down, she is the moment between breaths, she is here, she is here, but when I reach out to touch her she is gone.


  1. Happy birthday Freddie, and a kiss for each ear.

  2. Dear Fred, happy birthday - hope you love being nine - and enjoy your sparkly beautiful earrings. Gorgeous.

    Dear Penni - wow, how did they get to be nine already? Just for what it's worth - I'm not enjoying nine so much. Full on attitude, determination, and fierce independence. It just kind of exploded overnight. Hope nine is kinder in your house.

    peace and love to you, kath xxxx

  3. oh dear, of course it's kath (logged in as mark) - not actually mark xxxx

  4. Oh Penni, that's so beautiful, I think one of my heartstrings just snapped.

  5. Thanks for that. I miss my children's younger selves so much, the little people that they used to be sometimes seem so far from the people they are now. Loved your final paragraph, made me wistful.

  6. My daughter is 9 about to turn 10. And getting her ears pierced. Beautiful post for your Frederique.

  7. Ruby was exciting at nine. Finally became the passionate reader she would be for the rest of her life. Hope nine is sweet for Fred and for you too.

  8. Oh this is making me feel very sad. My youngest starts kindergarten tomorrow and he seems very little to be dropped off for a day alone in a class room. Am so pleased you and Fred did this for her, the ear piercing, and that you both made it significant. It is her last single digit birthday, after all. And there is something quite ceremonial about a gift involving pain and maturity and self-care. Happy Birthday.

  9. Oh this is so beautiful and very haunting, these little girls of different ages. happy Birthday to your girl.

  10. Anonymous3:54 PM

    She is such a perfect 9 :)
    Just thinking on this the other day, wishing I could curl my hand around time and see all the little ages one more time with the boys. Sam is 19 now Penn :) Hope you are well, Rach xo