You know me, don’t you!

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Before I returned to teaching full-time I used to take casual days. Often I would teach my friends’ children because I worked at our local school. Mostly these children didn’t care to acknowledge the fact that their mothers were my friends but it was not the same with Millie.

 When I walked into the classroom and the children stood up to greet me, Millie beamed.

 “You know me, don’t you!” she stated.

 “I do know you,” I replied trying to acknowledge her joy but not make too much of a scene. The regular teacher sat at his desk typing. ”Tell them,” she continued looking around at her peers, “tell them how you know me.” I was conscious of how this interaction made the regular teacher react. Would he think I wasn’t professional if I responded truthfully? Would he think I was unkind if I brushed her off and went on with the lesson?

This Friday Millie turns 18. It is eight years since that encounter in the classroom. For her birthday Millie’s mother, my friend, has asked the women in Millie’s life to pen some words of wisdom for her future. You see, I do know Millie. I’ve known her since she was born and her sisters as well.

 She sat at my kitchen bench as a child eating my biscuits when her mum came for tea. Millie has always been bold, unashamed and held no remorse for requesting yet another ‘TimTam’ even though she was supposed to go home to eat dinner. I loved how she used to ask if she could stay for dinner as well because “Auntie Clare was such a good cook.” Flattery gets you everywhere!

 She splashed in puddles with Jack when the rain left them deep and inviting in my driveway. This delightful ‘tomboy’ playful side of her nature positioned her well for invites to play. I never forget the day she phoned to ask to come over and I overheard Jack (as he covered the phone with his cupped hand) and said to his mate, “can my friend Millie come as well? She’s a girl but quite like a boy.” He said this as a huge compliment to Millie.

She sat on my lap in a tutu when she was two, wishing she could dance on the stage at the eisteddfods with her sisters and my daughters and all her other ‘big girl’ friends (and some tap-dancing boys as well). Millie was always prepared. I’m sure that even at two she thought, if I’m dressed for the occasion they might just let me up there.

She carried my cat and walked with Jack, parading around the assembly hall on Book Day when they were “Milli, Jack and the Dancing Cat.” Millie has always thrown herself whole-heartedly into everything she does. She didn’t settle for the ordinary dress-ups on Book Day. After all anyone could be Alice…or Wally.

 She caught the Palm Beach ferry with Jack to my parents’ house in the holidays and called them Grandma and Grandad in the same way that my children call her Grandma, Granny. Why settle with being merely friends when you can be family!

Millie was the youngest of all the children of my friends. In the beginning that was fine. She was cute and the centre of attention. They all carried Millie when she was small and fussed over her as she grew. They cycled with her in the cul-de-sac when she got ‘cats whiskers’ on her teeth, reassuring her that she already looked like a teenager. Then overnight the others grew. They did become teenagers and in so many ways Millie got left behind. I’ve watched her adapt to this over the years. I’ve seen her take it all in her stride, make new friends; dance at her own eisteddfods, change schools.

Jack returned to her side when she was 16 and escorted her to her formal. They made a gorgeous couple; we took photos, swallowed tears and could hardly breathe for wondering where the years went.

Now here we are, two years later and I’m supposed to write wise words!

So here we go, Millie. This is my best attempt:

Pay attention to the little light in your thoughts that’s like Gus the Firefly in P.D. Eastman’s children’s tale. Use that little light well and let it shine the way you always have. Continue beaming rings of kindness around people you meet. Put others first, shower them with all the love and attention that comes so naturally to you. Enjoy the way the place shines around you when you do and try to not be tempted to turn that attention back to yourself. Learn from Gus that the light was a gift God gave you to use for good and to help others to see the way. Or like the boy who discovered the “Lost Thing” in Shaun Tan’s book, never get too busy to notice all the incredible, unexplainable good things that happen in the world.

Continue to live wholeheartedly. Decide to live everyday as if it’s your last, one day it most certainly will be. Do what you love. Listen to your favourite music, find beauty, take photos, laugh, and dance and explore. Be yourself. Your bold, beautiful, unashamed self! Have a sweet biscuit occasionally before dinner, pay compliments to the chef! Your gift for words of encouragement will take you places.

Jump in puddles, get dirt between your fingers, remind the men in your life that you are every bit their equal. Do it with grace and a smile. Keep turning up ready for anything, whatever is needed. Pack the tutu and the overalls or the evening gown. You wear them all so well. Don’t be perturbed if everyone else turns up dressing the same as each other. You were born to stand out, never created to go along with the crowd.

Keep finding your way into peoples’ hearts. Ask them questions about them, listen, care, act on what you say you will do. Just like did for me last night when you rang to say you got into your course at Uni. I am so proud. I knew you would but I know that you would have found a way to follow your dreams even if the door didn’t open, even if things didn’t go to plan. I know this because when you were 13 and Sam was diagnosed with Leukaemia you ordered cartons of chocolate koalas and sold them to help her with her treatment. Never stop being a problem solver. Keep making new friends, continue being brave when it feels like you’ve been left behind. Sometimes life doesn’t go in the direction we hoped but trust in the One who holds your future in His hands. Friends come and go but family are forever. Hold them close and watch how even your adopted family come to stand beside you on your most important days.

Like you said that day many years ago, “I do know you.” What I love about you Millie is that you too, know you. So keep being you and don’t ever strive to ever be like anyone else, or worry about how you should respond (like I did) because you think that someone is watching. I don’t know how I responded that day in the classroom…maybe you remember? I hope that I chose to be kind over being professional because kids like you made the world a wonderful place. God knows we need adults like you too.

 

Happy 18th Birthday Millie

 

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3 Comments

Filed under Life

3 responses to “You know me, don’t you!

  1. jenexton

    I tried to comment but I couldn’t so I am letting you know the words are divine!

    On 17 Jan 2014, at 3:35 pm, Girl on a swing wrote:

    WordPress.com Clare Froggatt posted: ” Before I returned to teaching full-time I used to take casual days. Often I would teach my friends children because I worked at our local school. Mostly these children didnt care to acknowledge the fact that their mothers were my friends but it was “

  2. Ali

    Just stunning words Clare! xx

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