My oldest daughter turned eight last week. For the ten days preceding her birthday she was a study in grins. Nearly everyone she came in contact with soon discovered how many shopping days remained until her special day. The energy emanating from her small, 40-ish pound frame seemed impossibly overwhelming. Or so I thought. Until it multiplied.
Last year there were three teachers in her classroom. She fell in love with all three of them, one more than the others. The one teacher about whom I was most worried turns out to have been the one who stole her heart. She was the one who lit my daughter's face up like a roman candle on the Fourth of July. The one who never let her doubt herself. The one who showed up for choir concerts on school nights and asked about her father when she knew he was in the hospital. That teacher.
She left at the end of the school year and, although she promised she'd be back occasionally, my daughter was devastated. I somehow managed to obtain a mailing address for her and the two of them began this crazy correspondence on restaurant napkins and silly scraps of paper. Three weeks ago we got some fantastic news. This lovely woman was scheduled to substitute in my daughter's classroom on her birthday.
"That is the BEST BIRTHDAY PRESENT EVER!!!" the grin split my daughter's face wider than I've ever seen it. She couldn't contain her energy, bouncing up and down and turning in circles as she squealed with delight.
There were other gifts - four inches of unseasonal snow on the night of her birthday sleepover, flashlight tag at 10pm with her best girlfriends in the backyard, dinner at her favorite restaurant and a dessert with a candle in it while the rest of the patrons sang to her, enough books to keep her busy until January at least. None of them compares even slightly to the six hours she spent in the classroom with her favorite teacher. The one who never acts as though anything might be too difficult for my daughter. The one whose face breaks into a smile a mile wide as soon as she catches sight of my daughter down the hall. The one who picks her up into an enormous bear hug and a giggle each and every time they see each other. The one who makes her feel like she's a princess. We'll be riding this high for a long time and I can't tell you how much it warms my heart to know that this was her best birthday gift - the presence of this special person in her life. Some things just can't be gotten with a credit card. Thanks, Mrs. H!