Hannah at Ten

She is a bubbling fountain of energy from the moment she closes the car door.  "I love my new teacher!  She's really nice and she loves to play games.  Today we played Around the World in Math class and guess what?  She said we could play it EVERY DAY if we wanted to as long as we're good.  Have you ever played Around the World?  We all sit in a circle and she asks one of us a problem, and if we get it we get to take the next chair, and if we don't then we have to sit down and the next person gets to try . . ."

She is easy to talk to.  We discuss the Kindle, her Big Birthday Present.  "I need an easier way to organize my books, since I have so many."  She gives me advice about our upcoming trip to Orlando: "Magic Kingdom is okay.  It's nice for families.  But you HAVE to go to Hollywood Studios!  Promise me!  You will LOVE it!"

She is creative.  Beadazzled, something of a candy store for the artistically-inclined, proves the perfect outlet: she flits from one table to another, looking for the right beads for the bracelet we're designing.  I tell her she can choose ten, since she turns ten today.  Then I cave and say ten big ones, and we can put smaller spacers between them.  She creates a work of beauty, something I'd be glad to display on my wrist, but I'm not allowed to help her with it or even touch it.  It's hers.  Her independence is gratifying.  This new world has been good to her.

She is sensitive.  We run through the rain back to the car, and I suggest ice cream.  I have a coupon for a free one, and I'd like her to have it.  "But what about you?"  I don't need one, I say.  "I don't want to eat all by myself," she worries.  I agree to a bite of hers, and it's settled.  Off again through the rain to the shop, where she chooses mint (my favorite) with M&Ms.  My bite, swirled with melted candy and a generous spirit, is the sweetest thing I've had all day.

She is gracious.  She thanks me effusively, constantly, so that I am ashamed of the rarity of this occasion.  I tell her that even though I don't see her as often as I would like to, I think about her all the time.  I love her and pray for her.  "I think about you all the time, too," she says, with the gravity of a much older girl.  Then, "But my little brothers are still REALLY annoying!  So I guess you're not praying enough!"  This is the funniest thing either of us have ever heard, and we laugh till it hurts.

She is smart.  Stuck in traffic on the way home, she asks if my GPS has a calendar.  No, I say.  She clicks around and finds one, then figures out how to add notes to individual days.  "Let's put in my birthday!  Now yours!  Now Christmas!"  We spend the next hour thinking of fixed holidays, and she comes up with most of them -- Groundhog Day, Halloween, April Fool's.  When she can't think of any more, she asks me to make her guess.  "A famous saint from Ireland."  "St. Patrick!"  "It starts with V. "  "Valentine's Day!"  She wants to spell them right, starting all over if she has to.

I'm twenty years older than you, I tell her.  Right now, I'm three times your age.  But I'll only be twice your age -- "When I'm twenty," she says, not missing a beat.  "In another ten years."  When you're twenty, I say, I'll be forty.  I think that calls for a party, don't you?

But when I think of her at twenty, part of me is sad, because ten fits her so well.