Eight - FamilyEducation

Eight

January 13,2012
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

T. is eight-years old today.

Eight.

It's a lovely number, rounded at the top, and rounded at the bottom. Turned on its side, the number eight becomes the infinity symbol, everlasting and perpetual.

On this day, at eight, T. is all about musicals, and belting out "Tomorrow" and dancing in front of the big bathroom mirror. She wants to be a scientist when she grows up, and study marine animals. She loves her dolls, but sleeps each night with an old beloved t-shirt she outgrew long ago. She loves to cook and bake and she always--always--wakes up with a big smile, chattering about the new day. I imagine the world unfolding in front of her like fluttering silk, the day lit by her energy and spirit.

But one night last week T. was out-of-sorts. She is not a child who broods, or sulks, or lashes out. When things bother her I see them in her face at once, like shadows playing along a wall, and she struggles to put on a brave face, to smile the shadows away. At bedtime I asked her if she wanted to talk, and she shook her head at first. After storytime, she'd been filled with questions about how old I was, and did I like my age, and was I worried about turning 43 next year? Did I miss being in my thirties?

I always miss the year I leave behind, I told her. But turning a year older is like meeting a new friend--scary and exciting, and filled with possibilities.

T.'s mouth turned down at the corners, and the dam broke. She burst into tears, and hugged herself tight, arms across her chest.

"I don't want to leave seven behind," she said, in-between big sobs.

"Oh T.," I hugged her. "It's okay. Eight will be...eight will be the BEST. It will be just great!"

And then she laughed, just as easily as she had burst into tears moments before. "You made a poem, Mama!"

She sat up in bed, her still-drying hair wisping around her face.

"Eight will be great, just wait! Eight will be great!"

And it will, my T., just you wait and see. You tackle everything you do with gusto and good, shining, and infectious spirit. Your heart is bigger than anybody's, and you have always been the bravest, strongest person I know. You are as uncomplicated as a rain-washed new day, and as beautiful as a splash of light, pooled across the floor.

Happy Birthday, T. We love you.