the circle game

Good morning, my super silly sister,

Today is the first day of 4th grade. I’m so terribly excited for you, but I keep staring at the calendar in disbelief. It seems like it was just June and we were making tentative plans for me to take you to school for your first day. Where did summer go? There’s a song called “The Circle Game” I heard about in high school by a singer named Joni Mitchell. The song repeats these lines:

And the seasons they go ’round and ’round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came,
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

I don’t expect you to understand this now, or even when you’re old enough for me to give you all of these letters I’ve written to you on birthdays and first days. More and more, though, my Goosie, I am caught up in the sensation that we are moving forward too fast to understand. I have loved this summer with you, and we will have more summers together, but my heart and my breath catch knowing that next summer that comes will make you one more year older. I wish, sometimes, that I could freeze you in this moment of life, but I know that it’s impossible, and besides – I would miss out on the great person that you are in the process of being and becoming.

A few days ago, you and I were getting lunch at Urbane Cafe and while we were walking into the store, we were having a conversation about how cool I am. You stopped and put your little hand up and said, “Wait, wait, wait. Back that train up.” I couldn’t help but laugh because you say that funniest things I’ve ever heard come out of a kid’s mouth. Maybe it’s because you’ve spent your life surrounded by adults who speak to you like an adult, maybe it’s because you are an incredibly bright, creative kid – but you make me laugh every single time I see you. I love that about you. As you’ve gotten older and you’ve figured out that you are a witty weirdo, you’ve learned how to use it to your advantage. Thank you for making me laugh, my littlest love.

Oh Charissie girl. This year is going to fly by, I just know it. I don’t want to rush it away, but I know that’s what’s going to happen. I’ve learned from years past that I snap a picture of you on the last day of school, shaking my head in disbelief that the year is done. I hope when you are on the cusp of fifth grade that we can look back and see that fourth grade was the best year of your life. It will be, I hope and pray, the year of your bravery.

Be brave this year, my sis. You have had nearly ten years of being yourself. Mama and Daddy and as a result me have always let you be who you are: a quirky, independent thinker. You are truly a free spirit. You know what you like and what you don’t. You have a sense of identity that most people never fully develop in their entire lives. Live up to that, kiddo. Be brave and be you. The ones who love you best wouldn’t want your bold, sparky self in any other configuration. When peer pressure tries to change and reshape you, withstand it. That’s what bravery is – fighting to be authentic in the face of popularity. You are the most authentic child I know and I love that about you.

Be brave when it comes to others, too. Your little heart is so full of love and compassion – give it freely this year. Be kind to the ones who need it the most. Stand up to the bullies and befriend the underdog. I know it will be hard, but Goosie, you’re already a world-changer. Don’t stop now. Change the world for another boy or girl who doesn’t know how to be brave yet. Give them that gift, because you can teach it to your classmates better than any adult possibly can. Love those who seem unlovable and watch them grow.

Be braver than you think you are, sweet girl. Don’t lose your voice in the crowd. Last night you told me, “We only get morning recess and lunch recess this year. They think we’re more mature.” You are. Yes, you are more mature. But don’t forget you’re just a kid still. Ask us for help. Be brave enough to know that we are your family, and we will help you be a kid. I tell you all the time that you have the rest of your life to be a grown up, and sissy, I mean it. Fight the need to be a teenager. Resist the pull to fall in line. If your friends are racing toward adulthood, it’s okay, and maybe the bravest of all, to keep your feel firmly planted in your childhood. Crushes and dances and parties will come as the years slide past us. Don’t worry about them now.

This year, build a mission. Be in the Gold Rush play. Sing to your heart’s content. Imagine and create and invent worlds and games at school and at home. Enjoy this time.

I love you so much, my sister mister. I am so thankful and thrilled to be a part of your life. I can’t wait to hear what this day has brought you.

Love you always and forever,

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