Her name means clear, bright, shining, brilliant to the sight. She sparkles, scintillates, always has.
I close my eyes, lean back in my chair. Looking down the bedroom hallway, she’s there in mind’s eye, prancing along with her stuffed sidekick, a pony she named Shadowfax.
She had such love for ponies. The summer she was eight, our family vacationed in Estes Park. As our car passed a roadside corral near our hotel, she pressed her nose to the window and caught a glimpse of a brown and white pony. She cast adoring eyes on his beauty, locked him in her gaze until our car curved around the mountain road.
She turned from the window with impossibly long-lashed, expressive eyes. “If I owned that pony,” she said with a wistful sigh, “I know what I’d call him – his name would be Melting Snow.”
Melting Snow, a name so poetic, it still enchants me. It’s a rare privilege when a creative child lifts the veil just enough to allow a glimpse of her world, of what she sees through shining eyes. Melting snow, first sign of spring. . .
Our little dreamer was not born in spring, but in the white snows of February. I called her my early Valentine, loved that her birth flower is the violet, sweet harbinger of spring.
A sketch of violets I drew and began embroidering for a pillow for Clare’s room. I got off to a good start, but, alas, I set it aside in the busy whirl of life, and forgot about it until I unearthed it a few years ago.
Clare is five years younger than her brother, James, and eight years younger than her sister, Margaret. As a former teacher and lover of children’s literature, Clare’s arrival bequeathed me an extra six or seven delicious years of story time. She’d curl into my lap like a kitten in fuzzy, footed jammies, then off we’d fly to Neverland. We’d visit Heidi’s mountain, or slip into the shadowy barn at twilight to watch Charlotte spin her wondrous web. Clare and I traveled fast and far. (She remains a voracious reader whose most prized possession is her fine and ever-growing collection of books.)
When Clare was growing up, we sang and danced as often as we read. At four, she’d waltz around the living room singing “Once Upon a Dream” from Sleeping Beauty. When she was five-going-on-six, she’d sing “Where is Love?” from the musical, Oliver! every night while I dried her hair. Other special favorites were “The Riddle Song” and “The Owl and the Pussycat” by John Rutter and The Cambridge Singers.
Over Christmas break of her fourth grade year, I took Clare and her friend, Morgan, to see Phantom of the Opera. Clare, a confirmed aficionada of musical theatre, was mesmerized and saw the movie several more times. Later, she rather shyly told me she could sing “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again.” I must admit, I was skeptical; after all, she was only ten. But I asked her to sing it for me.
“Don’t watch, Momma,” she said, and walked out to our sunroom. There, in the dim light of evening, arms at her sides, she began to sing. I was unprepared for the clear soprano voice that belied the singer’s age, soaring to the song’s most poignant notes, filling my heart, and my tear ducts. . .
She’ll be twenty soon, this child who has brought so much light and joy to our lives, this child who is no longer a child. Clare – clear, bright, and shining, whose playful, ethereal presence, though unseen, was palpable before she existed.
I remember it so well, that sun-dappled spring afternoon. Our children were at play.
Jeff and I leaned together on the front steps of our first house, a pale yellow clapboard nestled on a wooded cul-de-sac. We watched as seven-year-old Margaret and four-year-old James clambered in and out of their shiny red Radio Flyer wagon, taking turns tugging one another up and down the long sidewalk.
Cardinals called from the treetops, butterflies fluttered in the garden, golden light dripped like honey through the leaves of our flowering crab. The infectious giggles of our merry two made us smile.
As we watched our children frolic in the sunlight that April afternoon, I heard a distinct inner voice.
Someone isn’t here who should be, the voice said. Someone’s missing.
I made no remark to Jeff at the time, but the words I heard interiorly stayed with me. This lovely day, this moment in time, perfect and beautiful as it was, whispered of beauty yet to come.
Roses blossomed, acorns dropped, snowflakes sailed the skies.
Less than a year later, our precious daughter, Clare, was born. In the quiet hours that followed her birth, I confided to Jeff what I heard on that balmy spring day while Margaret and James frolicked in their red wagon.
Jeff looked at me for a moment in stunned silence. “Amy,” he said. “I can’t believe it….. That’s exactly what I heard, that same day.”
We stared at one another in wonderment, then looked down at our newborn child. . .
That’s how our darling daughter came to be – our someone-who-was-missing, the little rosebud who fit into our arms, just so, to complete our family’s joy. . .
Clare – brilliant to the sight. She lights up a stage, sings like a lark, writes up a storm, lives life with wide open arms. Like the sea, like the sky, she has depth and strength and beauty and unlimited possibilities. She’s going somewhere, although I can’t know where – not just yet; her story is just unfolding.
But I do know this: she is well on her way.
Happy birthday to you, dearest Clare,
A bright future awaits you. May you embrace your journey with unbounded joy, with your characteristic sparkle, with all the love in your heart. Dream of life, then live your dream.
I love you, my littlest one, always and always. xoxox