Written about 13 years ago, the following essay was inspired by my niece Sierra, who turns 17 today. Even as a three-year-old, she possessed an innate ability to view the world as full of possibilities, not limitations, just one of the qualities that makes her an exceptional person. Kindness, loyalty, and a clever wit also dominate that long list. Her thoughtfulness shines on everyone around her, reflecting a selfless nature and the gift that she is to all who love her.
Happy Birthday, Sierra!
What’s it Called?
(Written during the spring of 2004.)
“Is today your birthday?” my three-year-old niece Sierra asks. She presses against my legs and looks up at me with a hopeful smile.
“Yes,” I say, peering down into her blue eyes, a blue that’s hard to define, like the sky filtered through a gray cloud.
“What’s it called?” She confuses me with the redundancy of her question. I frown, not sure what to say, and during my hesitation, she adds, “Mine’s called Barbie Birthday.”
“The name of your birthday is Barbie Birthday?” I ask.
“Yes.” She pauses and stares at me expectantly.
Shaelyn, Sierra’s older sister, catches on quickly to the game. “Let’s call it the Flower Birthday,” she says, gesturing to the pink tulips that sit on top of the dining room table, which is painted with orange flowers.
I nod and Sierra smiles. Finally, my birthday has a name, a theme. “Or how about Tulip Birthday? Or Birds of Prey Birthday?” I ask, the latter suggestion in honor of the wildlife refuge we had visited earlier in the day. Sierra thinks this over and seems pleased with the ideas.
She likes events and even objects to have a theme. Maybe it comes from having a creative mother, who often discusses decorating schemes or an imaginative grandmother, with whom she spends a great deal of time.
Regardless of where she gets this trait, I like it. I want my days to have themes: Cycling on a Summer Day or Watching a Bald Eagle Afternoon. It makes ordinary events somehow new and exciting. Running to the post office is no longer an errand, but rather A Short Drive to Check the Mail. It’s like a chapter in a novel, anything can happen.
I need Sierra to live with me. I want to hear that simple question, “What’s it called?” more often. It makes me appreciate each moment, where seen through her eyes it becomes a journey in need of a title.
Next time Sierra asks me, “What’s it called?” I’ll be ready with my answer. I’ll look into those blue-gray eyes and say, “It’s a Sierra Day.” Although she might not completely understand, I think she’ll appreciate my response.
Simply put, a Sierra Day is one brimming with wonder, with originality, of finding magic in the ordinary, and knowing with certainty that life’s adventures deserve to be named.
Being able to see the world through Sierra’s eyes is wonderful. I hope at seventeen, she still has that beautiful openness to ask, “What’s it called?”
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I hope she can hold on to that quality her entire life–the ability to enjoy each moment and approach life with true appreciation is something that, I think, we all strive for, a universal desire.