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My favorite photo

Who is this kid?

She’s clearly contemplating the Big Things In Life.

Maybe, “Will Santa bring me a pony this year?” Or, “What will kindergarten be like? Will I enjoy it as much as I did the Jo-Jos preschool class at Happy Time Pre-school?”

Or it could be, “When are we getting off this damn train?”

“Why is it so hot in Texas?”

“What’s for dinner?”

She’s four or five years old. She’s got a baby brother who is somewhere on this train, rolling through East Texas. She’s got two parents who are babies themselves, just doing the best they can with what they have. Those two parents love her and her brother more than anything else in the world, including each other, which will one day prove to be the undoing of their marriage. For now, though, all of their lives are pretty perfect.

This year she took tap for the first time and loved it. Next year she’ll sing “In the Good Old Summertime” at the Happy Time Preschool Kindergarten Minstrel Show. She’ll find out she really loves the stage.

(Yeah, a minstrel show. It was the 70s, in Texas. Luckily there was no blackface. Looking back, she’s horrified they called it that, and no one said anything.)

Her little brother is having seizures, and undergoing treatment. He’s non-verbal because of the seizure medication, so she spends her days playing with and translating for him. “He wants a cookie. He’s thirsty. He needs his hat.”

He wore hats everywhere and used the term “hat” loosely, as his favorite was a green Tupperware bowl.

She looks like a tiny carbon copy of her mother, her “Mini Me,” although that phrase hasn’t been made popular yet. She’s got a sunny disposition that can also go a little dramatic. She’s nicknamed “Sugar Bear” by her Dad because she will only eat Super Sugar Crisp Cereal, and “Sarah Bernhardt” by her Mom because she’s a wee bit dramatic.

She’s crazy smart. She’s reading on a first-grade level. She loves animals, mostly horses and dogs.

She’s a blank canvas. She’s got her whole life ahead of her. She doesn’t think about her body yet, or food, or dieting, or exercise. She just plays and lives her little life. She’s still putting on costumes to watch Saturday morning cartoons and shows. She wants to be a dolphin trainer when she grows up. She still hasn’t learned to ride a two-wheeled bike.

If I could go back and talk to her, I don’t think I’d tell her anything about what’s coming. I wouldn’t tell her that her mom will die young, or that her parents will get divorced. I won’t tell her that dolphin training requires both a marine biology degree and the ability to scuba dive, two things she’ll be terrified of as she grows up.

In fact, if I could go back and talk to her, I wouldn’t talk. I’d just listen to what she has to say. It would be wonderful to remember who she was, and how she thought, and what her idea of a great life might be. I could use the reminder.

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