Whatever kind of day it was, it ends with me reading stories to her. Over the months she has begun reading more and more to me, and I can see her view of the world gather more detail and shadow. She wants stories of fairies and magic, of brave young girls who stop the villains and restore the world. Sometimes I also work in elements of the world around her – the herons and hedgehogs that live near us, the plants that grow around us, the weather and the soil – helping her understand that magic and power are not limited to fantasy.
She makes her own stories. Last night she showed me the one she drew in meticulous crayon detail, about the princess imprisoned with spiders in a dungeon, by a witch who wanted to turn the green land grey, and guarded her with a dragon who was working for the witch against his will, and secretly sympathised with the princess, and had a giant tear hanging from his eye because he would rather be doing good things for the world. I understand, I told her, as I laid out my clothes for the office tomorrow; we are all that dragon sometimes.
I recognize the threads of children’s books, after-school cartoons and inchoate understanding of the world, which she weaves together like a bird building a nest. But I tell her she has a greater story – I know more of it than she does, but soon that will change. It’s your story, I tell her, and you will know it all one day, but it can never be told, only lived.
I wrote my first magazine cover story on peak oil around the time she was born. In the years since then we have intensively studied building, gardening, traditional crafts and skills we think need preserving, and we pass them onto her in the hopes that she becomes the kind of person the world will need in the years to come. So far, so good.
A new chapter just began. Happy Birthday, love.