Monday, April 20, 2009

Fred You Are Six

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Frederique, you are the daughter of my heart. You are my strangeness, poured from me and put into the world, you are the deepest part of me, the part of me that almost remembers my infancy, you are the part of me I don't recognise when I look in the mirror, you are the strangest and most unlikely things that I do. You are me and not me. You are a stranger who looks eerily familiar, a song I know that I've never heard. You are more ancient than me. I have a strong perceptual memory, from when you were a baby, of seeing you as giant and I was miniature - you, your head, your face, filled the whole scope of the world.

This past year, in your time of being five, you have:
chosen to take my middle name - Ann - as your own
run through Paris in bare feet
cried in the bird markets of Mong Kok
been a bridesmaid
bought your first watch
had your first pocketmoney
started school
taken to maths
entered the literary world of Ramona the Pest and the faraway folk and Famous Five
been to the circus

learned that the Easter Bunny is not real*
chilled out
learned to write fox
found God
inherited a pet turtle
built a complicated lego robot, using the instructions
run in your first race
decided to become a circus girl on weekdays and a rock star on Sundays
learned the days of the week
been brave and wild

Happy birthday, my girl Fred.

*She asked me outright on Sunday night, and I could see in her face that what she really wanted was the truth. I told her. She kissed my forehead, and thanked me - for the eggs or the truth, I'm not sure. A bit of both I think. I said 'I'm a little bit sad you don't believe in Easter Bunny anymore.' She comforted me with, 'I do a little bit.' I told her she couldn't tell Una. She said, her words not mine, 'Our Little Secret.' I told her how I'd snuck out the door in our room to hide the eggs in the garden while they were eating breakfast. She asked me, 'Does Daddy know?' At the circus, which was wonderful, not the least because it was also creepy and melancholy and sad, as well as being shiny and magical and clever, she amused herself trying to figure out how the magician performed his tricks.
I have always instinctively favoured fantasy over reality for my children, overprotecting their imaginative life, as if it is some rare precious insect, easily blown away or trampled. This journey towards the real is one of my favourite surprises so far as a parent.


  1. Does Daddy know? bless. :)
    Asha is much the same .. perhaps more cynical.

    Happy Birthday Fred have a great party and very sorry we can't make it. XX Asha and Lulu say 'send cake'!!

  2. What do you mean ... YOU snuck out with the eggs??!!

    Happy bday to my brave little Fred.


    Hope being 6 is just as interesting, exciting and wonderful for her as being 5.

  4. Ai, because I know Fin, I feel I know Fred. A happy birthday indeed.
    I do love that. Asking whether "Daddy knew". Gorgeous and funny. It smacks of her believing Daddy might be better protected from the news. Lovely.

  5. How beautifully composed. Happy birthday to your amazing sounding daughter... does daddy know? Too adorable.

  6. Oh, happy, happy birthday, Fred. (I'm glad she didn't say, "oh, I wish he was real!" I was unlucky enough to get that once.)

  7. happy birthday to Fred!

    somehow I imagine Fred will find an abundance of magic in the real, wild world. I never found the easter bunny very plausible myself.

  8. Matt overheard Mieke and Quinn having a very serious discussion about whether the easter bunny is real or it wasn't directed specifically at us we left it alone. I wasn't expecting the doubt so early!
    Happy birthday to darling Frederique. Beautiful girl. xx

  9. With my daughter about to turn 6 in a couple of weeks, I really enjoyed your ode to Fred. I think 5 was is a fabulous age, and 6 can only be stupendous.

  10. happy happy :^)

    i know just what you mean about wanting to protect the magic .. and the unexpected pleasure of the journey toward the real. :^)

  11. Hello, Penni.

    Beautiful post. I was reminded of all the mourning my family went through as my sister was figuring the world out. (I was all about magic, but she pragmatically slashed through the childhood mythology, plus countries with serious religion don't indulge in Easter Bunnies quite as much.) Our parents were the 70s generation, taught not to patronize their kids, so they encouraged her iconoclasm through gritted teeth.

    Sister is 14 now, and I find it mesmerising to watch as she's trying on cuteness for the first time. That 70s upbringing again, she grew up as a plain child, unadorned, non-glittery, no pink tutus, asking serious questions and getting serious answers. It was only when she started making friends outside the family that she realized the social returns that come with cuteness. As much as it's distressing to all the feminists in the family, it's also normal. She smiles and winks and tries to get things. (The whole point being: omg the joy of watching them grow never ends. Not even post-Bunny.)