An Old Soul
The first time my father held you
gazing in your eyes, he said
he was looking at the wisdom of the ages.
Others from the beginning called you an old soul.
All I knew is I had yearned for you
and here you were.
As a baby, you used to place our arms around you
in the precise position you wanted them.
A few years later,
on a remote island in Lake Superior
you would scamper down the trail a mile ahead,
knowing with confidence where you were going.
You would astonish us with your creativity
as you made detailed fairy houses
assembled in the gaping roots of trees,
or ingenious color combinations
while you designed something
to hang on our front door.
You could do complex arithmetic
before you even had learned how,
asking for verbal word problems
from the far back seat in the van,
or telling me what the change would be
from the $20 bill before your eyes were even
at the level of the check-out counter.
Those wonderful years
that started so languorously slow
began whizzing by homeschooling style.
In Five-in-a-row you painted the water in Venice,
cut out a perfect freehand replica of the
Sydney Opera House from colored card stock,
floated pumpkins to find their density,
wrote haikus, and gleefully prepared apple pie.
You summarized Bible stories,
in a brilliantly brief encapsulated fashion,
using pithy sentences, like all that
gobsmacking profundity was simply so obvious.
You loved reciting all the 49 prepositions,
knew the world’s countries and capitals by heart,
devoured Robin Hood,
and gravitated to strong female characters
that wielded deadly archaic weapons.
You reminded me of Rachel Carson
as you wandered the shores of Maine,
carefully examining different species of seaweed.
There was Destination Imagination
with its duct tape balls,
and years of Earth Science projects:
ocean motion, sustainable seafood,
and the water crisis.
You explained what a caldera was
to adults who didn’t know.
There were fall weekends at MIT SPLASH,
working in the CSA garden at New Pond Farm,
herding cattle from a horse in Colorado,
pitching at wiffleball, ballroom dancing,
building the FIRST robotics team’s electronics board
and being their “human player,”
then discovering the joy of
You had your struggles, but got out of them
by tugging hard on your own bootstraps,
and finding a philosophic outlook
that is entirely your own.
Not everything was easy for you,
but you are finding your boundaries,
preferences, and work-arounds.
You wear corduroy,
and have a kick ass boot collection.
You are careful with your money.
You can walk away from a confrontation
as easily as you can hold your ground.
You won’t be messed with,
and don’t suffer fools gladly.
You like knowing things.
Your integrity is precious to you
but if you make mistakes
you are unlikely to apologize for them.
You are a leader without trying to be,
wishing others didn’t need it.
Your excellence has self-effacing panache,
not out of modesty exactly,
but more from skepticism,
as if you are not yet convinced of it
and the jury is still out.
You make startlingly intricate bead creations,
compose amazingly fluid
but syncopated pieces on the piano,
love a road trip and throwing clay on a wheel.
You are blazing a path through college,
which would have totally surprised you five years ago.
Your progression is perpetual and concrete,
etherial and unfettered.
You are working hard and making good choices–
we are proud of that and applaud you for it.
Today you turn nineteen,
but years have never defined you.
To celebrate anyway, we gave you
a new jeans dress with a leather belt
that will go well with your boots,
and we sent you cut-out birthday cookies
to share with your friends.
You already have our love.
This is the first year
we haven’t been together on this special day,
but you have always been in my heart
and you continue to grow there still.
my plucky youngest child!