I see you go up to strangers and say ‘a pool fell on my head’ and they look at you sideways. I know what you mean. A droplet of water fell from the tree and landed with a plop on your head didn’t it? I know your every move and watch you try to communicate with other people. It’s hard to be heard. Properly heard. You say to your new friend, Trevor, ‘I want to flush you down the toilet,’ but he doesn’t laugh; you look confused. That line gets a chortle out of Mummy and Daddy. We hang off your every word, as every two syllables you string together give us a little indication of Who You Are. You’ll say, ‘I want to go to the church supermarket,’ and we will marvel that you know what a church is as we’ve certainly never taken you to one. You’re quite sure you can get raisins there. We asked you where you got your shirt from recently and you said, ‘My husband’. We roared at that one too.
I love the way you ask new people whether they live in America and if you really like them, you invite them to Wellington. And how you pick up the iPod and talk to Daddy, always finishing with ‘See you later. Thank you’. And your loyalty to the colour green. And sister. You’ve started to look out for her in an older brother way, just like my brother did for me. I watch you interact with others and see how gentle you are, especially to animals. One day, you tell me, you will be a spider. What a fine thing to be. Sometimes I imagine you being gentle in the schoolyard and fear what the alpha males might do. But that’s my job as your mother – to worry about ridiculous things. You’re strong my first-born and have a fine sense of self.
Once you’re at school I won’t know everything any more. I won’t be there to see you triumph with the alphabet or make a friend. Or gain another bruise. Every day you take another step away from me. At three years old you’ve gained US citizenship and shifted hemispheres. When we first drove into camp Daddy asked you whether you wanted to live here for a while. You said, ‘Yes, for a whole, whole, whole, whole, whole, whole, whole, whole, whole, whole, whole, whole, whole, whole day.’ That made us laugh. A whole day is a long time in your world. I think I’m slowly figuring out why we’re here – to be present with you and your sister in these precious years. Your Father understood how important that would be, for all of us, way before I did.