500 words on…….Annalise!
She came to us after a season of sorrow, and, at first, we were not given much reason to believe that she could arrive safely into this world.
And then, on a hot July Thursday morning, she did. The chilly air in the operating room turned to ice in those long seconds when, arms strapped down and lower half numb from the epidural, I waited the several eternities it took between the time they announced that she was, indeed a girl, and the sound of her first, incensed scream.
She was jaundiced, at first – her body was strong, but no one had told her liver it was going to need to start working on its own that day, and it needed a couple of weeks to recover from the shock. She slept a lot, which was unsettling.
And then she woke up. Very quickly, we learned that she is a force of nature, much larger on the inside than on the outside.
She understood language early, and spoke early. One of her first and most useful words was, “Happened.” She would use it in a wide variety of contexts. There was the puzzled, “Happened?” as she held up a toy that disn’t work as she expected, the delighted, “Happened!” that said she was happily surprised. “Happened -” with a teary face, when she fell and got hurt, “Happened…” to explain why something had been dumped, thrown, or spilled.
She was slower to walk, because she studied each movement of her legs, carefully and repeatedly, as she stood holding onto the coffee table, bending and straightening each leg as she frowned in concentration…
She’s grown up with a considerable command not only of her native tongue, but of easily picking up phrases and pronunciations in other languages, an intuitive ability to read body language, tone of voice, mood, and gestures. She still loves the American Sign Language signs she learned to communicate better with us in babyhood, and expanded during her fascination with Koko, the signing gorilla who was an early hero.
Now, she loves horses especially, and that seems typical enough for a nearly 8 year old girl. But, go just a bit deeper, and there are her other, less ordinary passions: Venomous snakes, insects, spiders, and other animals; ecosystems and habitats; exotic animals from all over the world (she possesses a remarkable array of knowledge of species, genus, anatomy, dietary, and reproductive information on an ever-growing range of animals).
She soaks up nature documentaries at a prodigious rate; she is learning to read as naturally as she breathes, and has never had a lesson. She writes, and she creates art as prolifically as the dandelions which dot the lawn and so delight her.
She narrates her life – a life lived with confidence and joy and daring. She is what I may have been, if I had lived my childhood in the absence of threat and control from and by the adults in my world…..or, in her words, which sum up what means the most to her, just now:
“I’m made of bravery…….and water.”