A true story, written like a modern fairy-tale.
Once upon a time, there was a rare and beautiful bird.
Her feathers were as white as freshly fallen snow, and her her eyes were diamond-bright. She was a tall, strong, graceful bird, who could fly farther and faster than almost all the other birds, and when she spread her wings everyone around her stared, for she was the most beautiful, the rarest creature, any of them had ever seen. She was a social bird, for birds are social beings; but she was often happiest in her own company. And no matter what the danger, she was never afraid.
In all respects, she was a rare and beautiful bird.
One day, the Spirit of All Things moved upon the earth, and turned the rare and beautiful bird into a human spirit.
9 months later she was born--and now she is my daughter, Naomi.
I have known Naomi for 3 years. They have been a short quick staccato burst of years, and they have been very long years, at the same time. Then, one day I took Naomi to the duck pond, and when I saw her among the mallards and pigeons and seagulls, I knew what she was. It all made sense.
Naomi flaps her arms with agitation or excitement because she remembers flying. Flying to escape, flying to attack, flying to loose the sweet springy coils of energy that twist and writhe, imperceptibly, beneath the surface of her ever-mobile body. When she throws her head back and screams, it's not a cry of fear or even anger--it's a scream of impending triumph, the fierce passionate cry of a wild thing, neither happy nor sad, but vibrantly, shockingly alive.
I don't imply that she is emotionless. She has more emotion in one piercing glance of her glittering eyes than an average child has in their entire sweet, chubby body. She burns as hot and bright as the sun itself, and if she seems cold or distant it's because she keeps herself away, locked up tight, closed off, around people she doesn't trust. She is solitary, and she is unlike any other child I have ever known.
And yet. When she pulls herself onto my lap, and smiles at me from the corner of her eyes, and lays her head on my shoulder, and I put my arms around her and she snuggles into my warmth, she is every child I have ever known. Tall and strong and muscular, yes; but just there, under her crumpled, grass-stained t-shirt, is a little roll of milk-white baby-belly, and it is as squidgy and ticklish a tummy as any mother could hope for. When I dig my fingers into that soft chunky flesh, harder than maybe you would, because I know she is tough and strong and likes rough cuddles, she shrieks with delight and laughs until she can't stop hiccuphing.
When I tuck her in at night, although she has no discernable fear of the dark, if I try to leave the room too early, she lets out one harsh cry--if she doesn't sound like a seagull, this whole tale is nonsense--and then, like the child she is, she lifts one still-pudgy baby hand and grasps my arm, and pulls me down to sit at the foot of her bed, until she drifts off to sleep.
And when Naomi wakes in the night, she doesn't want the harsh guttural scream of the gulls, or the desperate fragile flight of the ducks with their wings beating the water into froth, or even the clumsy endearing waddle of the pigeons. She wants her mother, my plump featherless arms around her soft, sleep-warm little body, and my own quiet, low-pitched murmur in her ear, whispering human words: I love you, it's okay, Mama's right here.
When morning comes, we will go back to the duck pond. We'll watch the birds, as they flap and swoop and dive across the great grey expanse of the sky. I'll watch Naomi, her eyes like two great diamonds in a face of white marble, as she stares, transfixed, and imitates her winged brethren from her perch on the ground. I'll see, in the actions which never mimic humans but copy the birds as best she can, and hear, in her full-throated, wordless cries, that she is one of them, those frighteningly beautiful and heart-breakingly unreachable creatures; and my heart will break afresh, as it has a thousand times since she came to me.
But at least I'll know. I'll know the reason why, the reason she has never just been my baby, my little girl, and the knowing will bring me some comfort.
And in the night, when she wakes up, and babbles in a human infant's speech, 'Ma-ma-ma-ma-ma,' I'll go to her, and lift her into the safety of my embrace, and as I listen to the whistles and sighs and shrieks and clicks of Naomi-speak as they become the deep, regular sound of a human child's sleep-breathing, my heart will heal--as it has, a thousand times since she came to me--and I will know.
Naomi is a wild thing. She belongs to the world, to the sky and the trees and the air and the birds, and she belongs to herself.
But she is also my daughter, blood of my blood and flesh of my flesh and beat of my heart; and she also belongs to me. She loves me, as much as she loves the sky and the trees and even the birds, and that is enough. And even if she didn't love me, it would still be enough.