There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Frederique, you are the daughter of my heart. You are my strangeness, poured from me and put into the world, you are the deepest part of me, the part of me that almost remembers my infancy, you are the part of me I don't recognise when I look in the mirror, you are the strangest and most unlikely things that I do. You are me and not me. You are a stranger who looks eerily familiar, a song I know that I've never heard. You are more ancient than me. I have a strong perceptual memory, from when you were a baby, of seeing you as giant and I was miniature - you, your head, your face, filled the whole scope of the world.
This past year, in your time of being five, you have:
chosen to take my middle name - Ann - as your own
run through Paris in bare feet
cried in the bird markets of Mong Kok
been a bridesmaid
bought your first watch
had your first pocketmoney
taken to maths
entered the literary world of Ramona the Pest and the faraway folk and Famous Five
been to the circus
learned that the Easter Bunny is not real*
learned to write fox
inherited a pet turtle
built a complicated lego robot, using the instructions
run in your first race
decided to become a circus girl on weekdays and a rock star on Sundays
learned the days of the week
been brave and wild
Happy birthday, my girl Fred.
*She asked me outright on Sunday night, and I could see in her face that what she really wanted was the truth. I told her. She kissed my forehead, and thanked me - for the eggs or the truth, I'm not sure. A bit of both I think. I said 'I'm a little bit sad you don't believe in Easter Bunny anymore.' She comforted me with, 'I do a little bit.' I told her she couldn't tell Una. She said, her words not mine, 'Our Little Secret.' I told her how I'd snuck out the door in our room to hide the eggs in the garden while they were eating breakfast. She asked me, 'Does Daddy know?' At the circus, which was wonderful, not the least because it was also creepy and melancholy and sad, as well as being shiny and magical and clever, she amused herself trying to figure out how the magician performed his tricks.
I have always instinctively favoured fantasy over reality for my children, overprotecting their imaginative life, as if it is some rare precious insect, easily blown away or trampled. This journey towards the real is one of my favourite surprises so far as a parent.