My Little Dreambugs,
Kallista you are 6, and Athena you are 7, and you are both far from little anymore.
Yet I can feel each year your slow-but-palpable transition from creatures who wonder at everything in the world as if it were a mystery, into young people who are shaped and ordered and pressed by the expectations of the world outside your imaginations.
As you get older, your universe (not the universe, mind you) may become even more ordered, stripped in a million small places of its magic, as if the petals of an infinitely inconceivable flower wilt away to reveal the still-beautiful-but-perhaps-less-mysterious bloom below.
And so, here are my year-end wishes for you, my girls, while you still inhabit this tender space.
1. Don't forget that math is amazing. Athena, when you ask to "read" the number Pi, excerpted in my novel [SIC], and you then laugh and laugh when it goes on forever and exceeds your ability to find its end, you see in mathematics a language of order mixed with absurdity. Kallista, when you ask me to throw addition questions at you, which you then answer with all the rapidity of your 6-year-old brain and all the joy of a lottery winner, you feel a delight in the manipulation of numbers that can always be part of your special secret languages.
In a society that has already started to give you messages that may lead you away from science and math, I want you to be able to follow the endless shimmering path of digits wherever you want to go. If you can hold onto the magic language of numbers, in a way I was never able to, you'll speak your life in ways both sublime and astounding.
2. You are what you eat (for real). No one does a better job than your mother of helping us to eat healthy. When she discovered that we reacted to artificial food dyes and preservatives, she pulled them from our diet, and now, together, we make almost everything from scratch and we eat food processed as little as possible. She has taught you to start to read nutrition labels, and when you hand over the chemical-delivery systems sometimes called "candy," automatically, from a birthday party gift bag -- to be replaced, of course, but a treat that is made differently -- you are doing more for your health than you can possibly know.
You have learned this lesson well for people so young, and I want you to be strong in your understanding that what goes into your body helps to make you who you are. The wrong food may not only cause obesity and disease, but the right food can also help you feel better about the world you live in and encourage that easy-to-lose sense of inner self.
3. It doesn't matter that Santa is not real (or the Tooth Fairy). When you discover this -- and cagey Athena, I think you may already know -- don't let that fact turn the holiday into the crass commercial exchange of toys and goods and gift cards.
There was no Santa for me growing up, as I am Jewish, and I never had a Christmas tree until I married your mother, but I do understand the value of these symbols as ways to channel feeling and experience. When I put up the lighted penguin in our yard the other day and saw your faces staring not at its cheap Walgreens mesh or the already twisted-up scarf we tied around its neck but instead somewhere else, off into a space of whimsy and wonder and warmth, I wanted you to know something important.
If we can find this feeling in the simplest of objects, it's because we feel it, together, inside each other.
Never forget where this feeling comes from.
4. Your world is a world of stories. Math may be one strand of the story, yes, but never forget that the stories you make up about your toys and your animals and each other are the stories that will also carry you forward. Athena, when you tell me your dream, that you were inside the Perplexus maze sphere, and Kallista, when you look into the window at dusk and dance furiously before your reflection, you are both seeing yourselves everywhere.
Your world is a world of reproductions and echoes, and the more places you can imagine yourself, the more you will understand how to live anywhere, through happiness and disappointment... so you will always be able to imagine what's next.
When your mother tells one of her best stories -- the story of your adoption from China, Athena, and your birth six months later, Kallista -- at the Frigid New York Festival in February, she is imagining our lives in one of the best possible ways. Her bravery in sharing "Double Happiness: A Tale of Loss, Love, and One Forever Family" is one way of speaking life to life, of reflecting herself, and us, into the world in which we live.
5. Your sister is the gift that will stay with you the longest. You play and laugh together for hours, lost in your sleeping bags and tents and stuffed animals and the single Rainbow Loom strand that is now longer than our house is tall, yet you also, 17 times in one hour, come to serious and screaming disagreement on these same issues, each of real earthshaking importance to the world you inhabit together.
Your quarters are close. You share a room. You are one grade apart, and it can be hard to find space without the other. And this can be difficult, and such proximity will indeed sometimes make you scream.
And silence is rarely forthcoming.
And yet, when you no longer live together and your parents are old and enfeebled, or perhaps already gone, petals fallen from that same wilted flower, you will have each other in a way that is different than you will ever have anyone else. The lives you have made, and the people you will become, will emerge in part from your secret hours together, lost in a fort of your own making or laughing as you tell jokes long after your bedtime as your giggles merge with your dreams.
The intensity of your bond can sustain you through anything, and I wish for you to remain close, more than anything else I can ever wish for you.
And I wish you love, and peace, my daughters, because my love for you is as endless as the stories we tell ourselves.