You’re off in birthday dreamland right now, and I am here, awake, dreaming of you. I’ve heard the heart transports you to your beloved one when you can’t be with her on her birthday.
If I could read you a book on your seventh birthday, I would read to you one of my favorites, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, written by a very peculiar and brilliantly creative fellow who went by the pen name Lewis Carroll. A pen name is a made up name that a writer gives herself, although sometimes it involves parts of her legal name. Pen names are right up our alley; we love to make up names and give ourselves new names. The fellow, Carroll, wrote of fantastical and faraway places; he was a mathematician and a deacon, and it’s fascinating to think about how math and ministry combined in his mind to create Wonderland. The little I know about math, I credit to Lewis Carroll. So if you’re ever hitting a wall when it comes to math, call upon Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland and Looking Glass!
Wonderland is an enchanted, and also a cursed, place where characters engage in word games that are rooted in logic. It’s kind of silly that they are rooted in logic because Wonderland is all about challenging logic. But you have to have a deep and complicated understanding of the human concept of logic in order to create a world as mad and magnificent as Wonderland.
You remind me of Alice. That is why I have brought the book up and have it sitting beside me tonight. Some might say you’re not here beside me, but I am looking to the left of my pajamas and I swear I see a small girl with blonde hair and a blue dress looking up into a tree with a very large, very elusive, very fantastical cat– that little girl in the illustration must be my little Elan. Except she’s about to be not-so-little anymore. In fact, she’s about to eat the birthday cake that all wonder-ful girls eat right before they grow a year older– the one that says EAT ME!
And she’s about to turn “curiouser and curiouser,” like Alice did when she found that little glass box with the very small cake in it and ate and ate until she finished the whole thing, right before she opened out “like the largest telescope that ever was” and grew to over nine feet high, so that her head slammed against the roof! That must have been some good cake.
Oof! I wonder if you will grow nine feet high tomorrow! I don’t know about that, but I suspect you will grow nine dimensions curiouser tomorrow, October 23, at 4:40 PM CST, when you morph majestically from our six to seven-year-old-girl!
I wonder who the White Rabbits and the Cheshire Cats and the Queens of Hearts and the Duchesses and the Dodos and the Dormice in your seventh year of life will be. Only time (in Wonderland) will tell! I know who I am and will always be in your life– your Mad Hatter Mummy, of course (I say this, even though you know it, because the March Hare just threw tea in my face and told me that to state the obvious is to make obvious the state….too sensible, that one… anyway!).
Hopefully no one will be late for the very important date of your birthday. We know we are NOT White Rabbits because we celebrated your birthday over a month early, fortunately, so we will not be hunted down by the Duchess of Wonderful Girls’ Birthdays!
And I’ll tell you something else, I know someone else who is not going to be your White Rabbit this year, and that is your grandmother. I would have expected Gramma Sue to be the White Rabbit, but guess what: not this year! Gramma Sue made it to your birthday a day early, which is like a miracle for Gramma Sue. I am so happy that you are able to celebrate your birthday with her and that she is able to spend your birthday with you. It gives me a lot of comfort that she is there, since I cannot be.
Lewis Carroll’s book is called “Alice in Wonderland” but I think he would want us to recognize that it’s really all about the “Wonderland in Alice.” Or, for my maternal purposes, Wonderland in Elan. I think of Wonderland when I think of you because you, my sweet, trusting, cheerful daughter, are a wonderland to your family. We love you so, and you and your sister are all the magic we need.
Tomorrow is for celebrating how far you’ve come on the journey to discover the wonderlands inside you and surrounding you over the course of the past six years. You were born in 2009 and now it’s 2016. How can that be! I feel time plays a trick on us; how did it pass so quickly?! I’ll have to consult with a dormouse about this!
I spent tonight curled up looking at photos of you and videos of you from when you were little– why, it was as if you drank a potion –that tasted of “cherry-tart, custard, pine-apple, roast turkey, toffy, and hot buttered toast”– and “shut up like a telescope,” shrinking to the size you were when you were just forming in my belly: ten inches!
Looking at photos of my curious girl made me want to stop time. To go back for a moment so I could hold you in my arms again, at one hour, one month, three months, thirteen months, two years, four years, four years and a day… Well, that’s not exactly how life works, so we have to go to Wonderland if we want to stop time and hold each other.
I go to Wonderland whenever I can; it’s my happy place. It’s adventure and fun and love. It’s Elan. It’s you– your heart and your imagination and your love for your sister and your love for your family and your family’s love for you.
Elanah, you, along with your sister, have taught me about Wonderland. About what it means. Sometimes life feels awfully weird, and downright scary, but a girl with Wonderland inside her adapts and makes an adventure of it. You are that girl. And you taught me how to be that girl. For example, when I danced around the house when you were a baby, in ways that other people would have judged, you danced with me, smiling and trying to impersonate me. I could, then, laugh at myself, seeing myself through your perfectly loving and accepting eyes, and by laughing at myself, learn to love and accept myself. That’s what children do for their parents. They teach them. All sorts of things, but especially about how to be loving and how to expect and see the best in others.
You taught that to me because, my little angel, throughout your amazing six (now seven) years of life, you have always seen the best in me, even when presented with what others might deem the worst. I’ll give you another example. When Momma Si and I explained to you some of the reasons why we were getting a divorce, Mummy was crying and feeling very sorry and guilty about what you were learning about her. Mummy was crying and apologizing while Darah went to get her Nerf gun, because she was overwhelmed by the news and didn’t know how to handle it except to feel protective of Momma Si, which was completely understandable. But you did a thing that surprised me. You came to me and grabbed onto me and hugged me, and said, “It’s okay, Mummy.” I remember that time felt like it stopped for me when you did that. As I wept and held you, I thought about how you were wise, because even though you were too young and could not possibly understand what we were telling you, you were able to see the bigger picture: you saw me. It was unconditional love. Perfect unconditional love. And Darah possesses it for me, too, as she demonstrated when she marched over into her bedroom, looking for the retelling of the Shakespeare play, Twelfth Night, that we had just read, to try to explain what was going on. You both understood in your own way, and you struggled to understand in your own way– and I know that the struggle to understand and the decision to love despite not being able to do so is one of the most beautiful things you will ever have allowed me to see during my lifetime.
That moment with you, Elanah, reminded me of another little wonderland girl, much like yourself. Me. Your Mummy. When I was a little girl, my mom and dad would fight a lot, and since I spent most of my time with my mom, I got to see how she felt after the fights. She would cry. And like you, I was wise. I simply loved my mom. Just like I loved my dad. I didn’t like what I heard when they fought. I knew what they said to each other was wrong. But when it was all over, there they were… there my mom was….. crying. And I would come to her and say to her what you said to me, “It’s okay, Mom,” while I hugged her. I was teaching her unconditional love, which is what you and Darah have taught me.
Thank you for being my teacher, thank you for teaching me about me, and thank you for sharing your Wonderland with me.
At the end of Alice’s Wonderland story, we are reminded that Alice has a sister. Like you. She has a Darah. And she wakes up from the terrible and frightful part of her dream in, where else, her sister’s lap.
“Wake up, Alice dear!” Alice’s sister says to her.
And Alice replies: “Oh, I’ve had such a curious dream!
Then Alice tells her sister all about the adventuresome dreams, and after telling her, her sister kisses her and the two part. But what’s wondrous about this ending is that Alice teaches her sister to dream.
As the story goes, her sister watched the sun set and began “thinking of little Alice and all her wonderful Adventures, till she too began dreaming after a fashion…”
The book ends with a beautiful passage when Alice’s sister “pictures to herself how this same little sister of hers would, in the after-time, be herself a grown woman; and how she would keep, through her riper years, the simple and loving heart of her childhood.”
You and your sister are the unconditional loves of my life.
And you are nearly seven. My wish is for you to keep the simple and loving heart of your childhood. I know, by being yourself, that you will.
Remember, going down the rabbit hole isn’t something to avoid; curiosity did NOT kill the cat!
A very merry birthday to you, Wonderland Girl.
Your Student and Devoted Supporter,
Mummy in Wonderland