To my oldest daughter, Catherine

by Diane Martin

Sketch by Diane Martin

Child of the sun-drenched plains of Africa, moving in constant rhythm to the swaying grasses and pulsating beat of the drums, you smile gently on all you see.

Your inheritance, my daughter, is fair: you carry the soft throbbing moments of life in your lustrous brown eyes and black shining curls.

As you lead your little brother by the hand to places of play, and watch his tumbles, I picture you already, a tall, graceful mother guiding your own future little ones.

I certainly am fortunate God has placed you as the oldest child of our house, for I appreciate your young motherly skill in giving of its spirit to your much younger brothers and sisters.

Child of my heart, not of my womb: who else held Mommie’s hand when she was sick to her stomach? Who else rubbed my back in the mornings when it ached? Though you are only three, I can already converse with you as an adult. Your natural intelligence expands daily.

Your questions would require, in answer, several closely written pages of the wisest men, yet you only have time for one or two pertinent sentences.

You can name all the spring flowers in our yard and recognize all the fruit trees in the winter.

I don’t know how you can waken at 5:30 A.M., smiling and talking, when your mother needs one hour and two cups of coffee before gathering her wits about her.

“Sing to me, Mommie.”

“Read to me, Mommie.”

Your feet are ever tapping to any repetitious sound—the drip drop of the leaky faucet, the tick tock of the small clock on my sewing machine.

Life will be hard on your kind spirit, I am afraid, but I pray that you will survive it with the songs in your heart and lips.

I know the little brother and sister you watch over so tenderly will staunchly rise to your defense, when you need to be protected from the thoughtlessness of elementary school children and neighborhood ruffians.

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