Today’s post is for my niece, Ella, who turned seven yesterday, and her mother and father who made her. All photos are courtesy of Stephan Mazurek.
You are a girl of immense imagination and potential. You are the exact image and temperment of your mother when she was your age. I remember when your mom was about six or seven, she would walk up to strangers in the park and say things like, “when I was thirty-one and married, I lived in a mansion with all my horses.” I was very shy and I did not understand where she came up with these incredible tales. While I daydreamed in the corner, she was the outgoing one, the actress, the stage director. She always had some kind of elaborate play going on: dolls lined up with scarves on the living room floor, a magic show involving bowls of water and disappearing string, costumed adventures played out under the dining room table. I must admit, I admired her chutzpah.
I have seen you play in a similar way. Here is a picture your dad took of you that he captioned: January 30 2011. Laura Ingalls Wilder dreams of her prairie from the comfort of her hallway. When I watch you play, I see you demonstrate a kind of total world-immersion that is amazing to behold. You remind me that as children, we have this ability to allow ourselves to be absorbed into play. Then we "grow up" and forget how to do that. How short-sighted of us! We so-called adults need to remember that one can have a job, pay the rent, care for a family, and still not lose touch with life's magic. Poetry, like play, reminds us not to leave our playful spirits behind.
I also appreciate your passion for all things you see, hear, touch, smell, and taste, as well as your deep friendships. Here is one: January 24 2011. A study in pink or Hot chocolate, two spoons. Here is a transcript of a conversation you had with your friend in the coffee shop:
Inga: Will you ever drink coffee?
Ella: Yes I will. It smells so good.
Inga: I won't. I don't like what it does to grown ups’ teeth.
Ella: Does what?
Inga: Makes them yellow. I want white teeth.
Ella: But it smells so good.
Besides providing insight into your sense of smell, you clearly have your priorities straight. This image caught by your dad reminds me of the importance of friendship as we grow. Don't ever give up on your friends. Even when you don't always see eye-to-eye with each other, true friends challenge, enhance, and support your creativity. That is how you know the person is a friend.
I want to jot down for you a few things that you have said over time that have struck me. Keep these things in mind. I think they will serve you well some day. I know they already have served me. When I sit down to write a poem, I try to look at whatever I am looking at with your same fresh, exuberant glasses.
One Thanksiving, just after we’d said grace, you sat tall in your chair and suddenly blurted out:
Who likes elephants,
raise your hand!
Another time, you pulled me toward the bathroom where your tub was being filled, offering me this intriguing invitation:
Let’s go to my water factory.
Or, once, getting ready for sleep, you said:
Lisa, maybe my bed
could be a computer.
Why didn’t I think of that?
I want to end this with a little something you wrote at the beginning of this year:
January 14 2011 Ella, my 6-year-old, learning how to write and trying on what she's reading
My dear Ella, may your way always be big with adventure and excitement. May you find the poetry of your life as you play and grow. And, someday, preferably when we can be together with your amazing mom, and my amazing mom--four girlfriends, we'd be--let's go someplace and have a cup of really good coffee.