Dear Embla and Olympia,
I’m writing to you after Christmas; this fourth birthday letter is extraordinary late, but I did want to take the time to acknowledge you and how much you have grown since I last wrote to you. It has been an incredible year, and I want to tell you all about your birthday and how you turned four in the midst of a pandemic, but let’s start at the beginning of the fourth year of your life – the day before we moved to Folkestone!
I often think that we ask so much of you, and your fourth year was no different. You kissed goodbye to your Grandy, your Auntie Paigey and Nanny Fish and moved to the seaside with your mummies, your brothers and baby sister. We found you a nursery, and you thrived; your keyworkers loved you both so much and that love was reciprocated, you developed your own little community outside of the house with trusted adults and a gaggle of hand-holding small friends. You had always been the boys’ little sisters, but at nursery you came into your own. I was amazed and proud in the way that mothers tend to be, marvelling at your ordinary, perfect little scribbles and the sticky projects that you brought home.
Three was a year of curiosity and wonder; you found the magic in Father Christmas, but also in your teachers and the sea. It was also a year of great frustration. Olympia, you worried me this year. Your emotions seemed so much bigger than you, you seemed consumed by anxiety, defiance and rage. Often you would self-regulate by sitting on my back or my shoulders, scaling my body like a little squirrel and clinging tightly around my neck. You are the child who teaches me patience, who claws it from me bloodily, until we are both salt and tremble and I am reminded that you come from me. Embla, you were angelic at three, big-eyed and shy like a little possum, brimming with eagerness to learn and to do.
People who knew me as a child laugh about how you are so like me, my little Olympia, but Embla, we connected this year in our mutual love of the sea. You are such a funny little person, you are so very small and sweet but your stoicism astonished and impressed me this year. I loved swimming with you. You were always the last to retreat from the water, imploring me to let you stay in even when you were shaking and blue. I know how you feel in the water, my darling, my mermaid girl; I feel it too.
We never thought that you would celebrate your fourth birthday in a pandemic.