Spirited but bashful. Strong-willed, so strong-willed, and so aware of her own sovereignty she will tell me if I’m not being as kind or patient as I could be. She has the most dazzling smile but doesn’t give it away easily. Her resting mode is curious contemplation. Concern. Wonder. She likes to sort and organise. She is a natural big sister and is repaid in her efforts with genuine adoration from Ezra.
This girl is loved.
She is the coolest person I know. She has an innate sense of style, will wear the most amazing outfits with a great deal of poise but will also be the first to get naked whenever the opportunity arises.
Every morning the first thing she requests is a dress. She loves anyone who takes her seriously and shows genuine interest in her and she talks about those she loves constantly. She has her people.
Sometimes she has the weight of the world on her shoulders and I see that she just wants to fix things. She can’t stand cruelty and is sad when others are sad.
This girl is a complicated mixture of fire and ice, of passion and certainty and strength and sensitivity and then sometimes she is unphased, nonchalant, collected. When she’s had enough she will find a place to carve out her own space and there she will make a bed or a den and stare out the window.
A friend comes to visit and asks Ava a series of questions. Questions designed to get kids talking. You know the kind. Kids do too. Well meaning but too staged. Ava stares at her before leaving the room. As my friend is leaving she stops at the dining room door because Ava is singing ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’ in near perfect pitch, loudly, from start to finish, whilst pottering around her kitchen.
‘That’s amazing,’ she says. I’m reminded that Ava is absolutely under no terms a kid who will tolerate being made to do anything by way of performing, and I love this about her. I love that she resists being taught but loves to teach herself.
And although I love that she is bright and smart and so funny I love more that she is filled with kindness and enormous empathy.
That the first thing she did the morning after the first night we spent sleeping next to Ezra was to crawl over and ask, half-awake,’Is Ezra okay?’
Sometimes I like to watch them when she thinks I am out the room. Mostly she just gets on with her own thing but every so often she’ll say,’It’s okay Ezzy, I’m right here’, or kiss his cheek or hand him something while he watches her every move.
I love that she runs her hands through her hair and tells me it’s long, ‘just like Ivy’s’ and I remember when I thought she might always be the Incredibly Bald Baby for the rest of her life and how I knew she would rock it no matter what. But I can’t help but love her hair. ‘Strawberry blonde’, she says, matter of factly.
She loves animals, books, jewellery, her sparkly clippy-cloppy shoes, Mama-made dresses, floppy hats, falling asleep in the car, people visiting, swings and slides, hot chocolate, sand, watercolour paints, pelting down the stairs on her stomach and Elizabeth Mitchell (singer, not ‘Lost’ star). She still does not like potatoes.
I know that next year I might describe her in entirely different ways. That these things are only who she is right now, and even then, who she is to me right now. But I’ve also known, since I first held her chubby purple body in my arms and she stared up at me calmly and quietly that she was born Ava, born a whole, distinct and wonderful person.
At three years old she knows exactly who she is and what she wants and I wonder what that must be like. I am happy when, several times a day, I am jolted by the sheer differences between us. She is not me, not even a version of me. She is Ava. My Ava, and never mine. I make daily pledges to myself to do everything in my power not to take any of her Ava-ness away.
She is just like the girl I dreamed of long before I was pregnant, back when being a mother was an idea I liked. I wonder if she was somehow hanging around with me all this time, waiting.
In her three years of being earthside she has influenced and inspired me more than anyone before her. It’s part of my job now to be someone better and to do things that are better because I have her constantly in my thoughts, and by my side, watching how I handle the world.
On Monday, in the car back from the pool, she turned to Howard and said, ‘Daddy, would you like to come to my birthday tomorrow?’
Howard hesitated and then replied,’eh…yes please.’
She thought about it and then said,’Okay Daddy.’
And somewhere inside that small interaction, the way she paused before confirming, the invitation itself, is the heart and bones and guts of what I love about Ava.