My middle child, named for dolphins and her long dead Danish great grandmother, is lately the personification of mercurial mood and odd beauty.
Few people understand her. She is often grumpy and rude, and weirdly, for a five year old, almost regal in her casual dismissal of people or objects she deems not worth her time. She is extremely sure of herself, and at the same moment clearly uneasy with her place in the world. She is a girl with a keen focus who also drifts impossibly, maddeningly away when a subject, or person, doesn’t suit her.
I can picture my son as a young adult. Even my baby daughter gives me glimpses of what one might call the core of her small self. My middle child, like the ocean creature for which she is named, is a curiosity and an intelligent enigma. Sometimes she surfaces, all joy and quickness, and we catch sight of her, of her body, her mind, twisting themselves toward growing girlhood. At other moments, moments that sometimes stretch to days, she’s a diver of depths out of reach to the rest of us. Sometimes I, as her mother and as someone who possesses a nature that most in the family mirrors hers, can keep sight of her; sometimes I just let her go and watch her submerge. She is gone.
My daughter shares a room with her older brother. They have bunk beds. In age they are eighteen months apart, so their conversation often possesses an eerie twinlike secretiveness; they have stories and inventions that belong only to them, no matter how intently their father or I eavesdrop. We know the characters but we don’t know the essence behind them, just as we know the raucous cackle middle child reserves only for the worst violations of those characters, but the gaze in her eye as she looks upon her brother telling the tale is not for adults to fathom or share.
As alternately cool and affectionate as she is with the rest of her family, my daughter unreservedly adores her siblings. With her brother she has created a separate world; with her baby sister she is helping a new world to form. With them she is all inclusion and sweetness, unless someone (someone, being, of course, her brother) steals her stuffed Bear, who has been an integral part of her world and our family for four years. As much as she can be an eccentric unknowable little thing with the rest of the world, her siblings understand her only as a young child made up of equal parts love and fun, with a dash of jealousy thrown in for taste.
This picture reminds me so much of her great grandmother, my father’s mother, to whom I was as close as I’ve ever been to anyone. My daughter looks like her, with her Danish perfectly upturned nose and open smile. I suspect she contains within herself my grandmother’s dark Danish moods as well, and I can only wish for her that within the well of those moods she finds not just the inevitable suffering but also her own power and selfhood. She is my beloved petite phantom, enamored and unafraid of death and animal carcasses, enchanted by pale pink dresses and jewels of all shades, blessed with a graceful long body and hands that easily create color and art. She is our gift we can never fully unwrap.