Elizabeth

I picked up the phone today to hear a soft voice from across the Atlantic. 

“Momma!”

It is Elizabeth, my daughter.  My youngest child.  My baby.

 

She is Christmas to me. Her voice tinkles like a silver bell.  I envision her elfin face; eyes that dance with the excitement of being alive. Ears that ever so slightly move when she smiles. She is tall and willowy; strong and fragile at the same time.

 

When Abby and Gabe were little, they couldn’t wait to grow up. In their imaginary play, they were teenagers and adults. 

 

Not so with Elizabeth.  Although the battlefields of hospitals and exam rooms catapulted her into an adult world far too quickly, her response was to hold on to her childhood with both hands, willing life to slow down, so she too, could languish in carefree afternoons that only the young can afford.

 

She delights in play and mischief.  One day at the beach, goaded by her aunt, she swam underwater and grabbed the ankle of an unsuspecting stranger. 

“The poor woman could have had a heart attack!” I scolded. 

She could not hold back her laughter.  Neither could I. 

 

In the hospital when she was eight, she threw a rubber spider on the nurse who was changing the bed linens, evoking a scream and shaking hands.  She and one of her doctors snickered at their secret name for her stuffed animal- “Diarrhea Doggie.”

 

Nothing excited her more than a night time ride in the car, while wearing pajamas. I still see her sitting beside me, bundled up to keep warm, her skinny legs sticking out straight in front of her.  She would put her little hand on mine, to help me shift. 

 

She tells me her favorite memory is of sledding near our home with her brother.  Day had turned to night.  Everyone else had gone home and despite the warning of “Come home when the street lights come on,” they decided to make one last run on the moonlit path. Gabe stretched out on the sled first, Elizabeth on his back. They threw out their arms like wings on an airplane and soared to the bottom, cold and breathless.

 

Now she speaks to me of academia and dancing in pubs.  International travel and foreign study have given her confidence and sophistication.  I listen to stories of her professor, who smells of coffee and crumpets, of her travels to Bath, Stonehenge, and how she wept at the sight of the Magna Carta. 

 

“Momma, I miss you,” she says suddenly.  I reflect upon the child speaking from the mouth of the woman.  Like Christmas, the child arrives only at rare, fleeting moments.  Like Christmas, she comes with fanfare, spreading kindness, and warmth, and fun.  Like Christmas, it is the gift of herself that fills all who know her.

 

Hurry home, Christmas.  

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