Have you seen this girl?

Her name is Claire Catherine Mai and she is 7 years old.  She likes to wear mis-matched socks and she hates to comb her hair. She loves milk, peanut butter (no jelly- it’s gross), chicken nuggets, and scrambled eggs with colored sprinkles on them.  She plays for extended periods of time with her doll house.  She also reads to her stuffed animals long after they should reasonably be expected to sit still and listen quietly.  She adores her baby sister, is in awe of her big brother, and is appropriately respectful of her big orange and white cat, Spencer, who is known to flick a sharp paw out at children without warning.  She twirls her hair when she concentrates, and she says she isn’t going to take her training wheels off until she is 16.  She is adorable.

But have you seen this girl?

She is 18 and will soon walk across a graduation stage, her green gown adorned with her honors and achievements.  Camp Longhorn is her favorite place on earth.  She loves milk, peanut butter, apples , and turkey sandwiches.  She plays the cello and swims and loves Harry Potter.  She is incredibly responsible.  I don’t think I have had a sleepless night because of Claire since she began sleeping through them herself, which took, admittedly, a little bit longer to happen that I would have liked.  I don’t think she has ever lied to me (in the last 10 years, anyway),  which I find amazing, because I expect my children to lie to me.  It’s what they do, right?  Not Claire.  I don’t think.  And if she has, I wouldn’t be disappointed- just surprised.

By nothing less than the amazing grace of God, Claire has pretty much always been a source of pure joy. Of course, in retrospect, I do have a few regrets, and would like some “do-overs” , please.  I wouldn’t leave her on the floor of her brother’s room as an infant long enough for him to jump off of the bed, landing close enough to her face to graze her cheek with the heel of his new cowboy boots.  I am sure there was a more effective method of discipline than digging my own heels into the carpet outside of her door, pulling on her doorknob, and screaming,”NO, you will not come out of there until you stop screaming!!!”.  I wish I had not fought so many dinnertime battles, counting bites and withholding dessert.  Given her eating habits today, I don’t  think those battles served any purpose.

She is an amazing friend to her sister, which is such a gift to me.  I love to listen to their chatter and their laughter- their love for each other spoken as freely as it is demonstrated.  How lucky they are to have each other.  How lucky I am that they know it.

For 19 years I have kept her close, sharing couches, dinner tables, dogs, and more recently, clothes and shoes.  I always said I was going to homeschool her for college, but she has chosen Washington University in St. Louis instead.  Not only will we not share the same space, we won’t even be on the same continent. Does she have any idea how much she is going to miss me?

Goodbye my pearl, my precious, my heart.  Your training wheels are off, now.  Ride off into the world  and show it what an awesome job we did here.  But don’t  forget that I am still your mom, and as close to perfect as you may be, I am not finished with you yet.

I love you, baby girl.



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6 responses to “Have you seen this girl?

  1. Gulp. Such special words!

  2. Brandy

    I may never be the same again after reading that. They grow up way too fast and she is an amazing person. I almost typed “girl,” but she isn’t. You definitely aren’t finished with her yet. You have a lifetime of more memories to come.

  3. Cesar Arreaza

    Kate, thanks for sharing such a beautiful written sendoff to Claire. Congratulations to you and Mark on a job well done.

  4. martha moore

    Claire, you are so beautiful! What i love about you is how strong you are – last summer you could have so easily thrown in the towel and come home, but you persevered discovering that you had an inner strength that will serve you well all the days of your life. That beauty, that strength – Oh, Claire, you are such a treasure to us all!

  5. Kim

    I love this girl and her mom too! Where is that sweet hat that she’s wearing in the first pic? That is so adorable and genuine.

  6. Madeleine H.

    Aunt Kate and Claire,
    WOW! That’s the first word that comes to my mind after reading that article. I love you both and Claire, all of those wonderful things that your mom said are absolutely true. Both you and Martha are such an inspiration to me and I just pray that some day I might be like both of you. Aunt Kate, we will miss you dearly when you leave for your next adventure. This article brought tears to my eyes. Aunt Kate you are such a wonderful writer and Claire is a wonderful subject.
    Much Love, Madeleine

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