Seven

January 13,2011
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.

Scott and I have been undertaking a massive and daunting project: slowly transferring all our photos from our old Dell computer onto CDs and then, from there uploading them onto a photo hosting site. We’ve been at this for some time now, since neither one of us has 8 hours/day to devote to sifting through old photos. I tell Scott that if we can just wait some 30 years or so on this it would make a fantastic retirement project.

The whole process is taking longer than it should, too, because I can’t work with the old photos without stopping to spend lots of time overcome with nostalgia and memories when I sort through photos from years ago. I’ll have forgotten all about a particular photo and then there it is, L. at three examining the bark of a tree, his face focused in intense concentration, his fingers tracing the rough ridges of the bark; or this one of T. that I recently stumbled across:

Little T. at 22 months old in a ridiculously large riding helmet, her body so impossibly small—those chunky uncertain legs, her tiny, strong and earnest fingers. I think about how worried we were back then, how many questions we still had about her health and development and the things about her that didn’t seem “right”—her seizure-like migraines, her small size, her poor balance and muscle tone. On the day that photo was taken, we were still waiting for results from a round of genetic testing and I was, simply put, terrified. We were seeing a number of specialists back then and had, behind us, a trail of others, all engaged in trying to decipher the mystery of T. I wish I could send myself back into that photo and take myself by the hand. “Stop worrying,” I’d tell Me from Back Then, with a friendly but firm shake of her hand. “She’ll be seven soon, and you should see her now!”

Because today, my T. is seven, and if the Me from Back Then could have been given the gift of peering into some crystal globe and seeing the future T. that tight, ever-present knot of worry that had lodged itself in the base of her throat from the day T. was born would have loosened, come undone, flowed away like a branch whisked along a river and the Me from Back Then might have enjoyed that day at the barn, on that cold November afternoon, so much more.

Today my T. turns seven. I love her more than I thought was possible--not because I couldn't imagine loving T. so much, but because the sheer depth and complexity of my love and admiration for her takes me by surprise sometimes. At seven T. loves dinosaurs, and paleontology, ice skating, rock collecting, drawing, writing stories, and her American Girl dolls. She's strong and sensitive and beautiful, inside and out and she still is--I have always been wholly certain of this--one of the bravest people I have ever known.