A little over ten years ago, I was huddled in bed, listening to a raging blizzard outside our Iowa homestead. The power was out, the snow was piling up, Evelyn and Jack were huddled in our bed to try and keep warm, the water froze, and at nine months and two weeks pregnant, I wondered if I’d have to give birth by candlelight in our bathtub.
Mercifully, Claire hung on for one more day until the roads were cleared and I was able to make it to the hospital to be induced. She didn’t come particularly easily though–she was one big, strong, broad-shouldered baby but once she made it into the world, it was clear she was meant to be part of our family.
Claire is one of those people who’s a walking contradiction. She’s motivated but mellow. She’s particular but can make a mess to rival a hurricane. She is driven, but has the patience of a saint. She’s uber-competitive, but will cheer the loudest for the person who’s about to defeat her. She loves to laugh, is a deep thinker, seeks out adventure, and is always looking out for the little guy.
One thing I admire about Claire is her creativity, whether she’s designing and sewing her own clothes, or finding some way to make the world more beautiful through art. There isn’t a medium she hasn’t tried, from digging up clay to make pots in the backyard, weaving pine needle pots, cattail baskets, giving balloons personalities, or turning hair into a masterpiece.
Her creativity leads to another virtue–she sees no waste. She can turn a broken rake into a work of art in an hour, while I would have been tempted to toss it as refuse.
Sometimes, she struggles with being a finisher, but when she is truly invested in a project, she gives it her all. This summer, she worked some of Parton’s old hide into an incredible cuff that she now wears with pride. That meant working the leather until it was soft, dying it with black walnuts, cutting it into the right shape, punching holes, then embroidering it. I don’t know what I was doing at her age, but it sure wasn’t that amazing!
Claire is a girl who’s always in search of an adventure. She’d never turned down the opportunity to take a hike and rarely keeps her feet on the ground as she explores. I never have to worry about Claire keeping up with the group and it’s guaranteed she’ll whistle along the way as she moves along.
Unlike a lot of people, Claire isn’t the least bit squeamish. She’ll catch and release her own fish, watch Jack butcher a chicken, muck out a stall, or hold a house centipede like it’s her best friend. The only exception–when she makes a face and almost gags–is when I ask for help changing a siblings’ dirty diaper. Even then, that’s understandable. Nobody likes changing dirty diapers.
|Our little pioneer.
Another of Claire’s passions is getting into character. She loves to play dress-up, and if there’s a holiday, festival, school function, or game at home that gives her the chance to live the life of another, she jumps at it.
If you’ve ever been lucky enough to hear Claire’s laugh, you know it’s utterly contagious. It is very uncommon that she’s not smiling and laughing because it’s her natural state to be silly. I think the world could use a little more of people not taking themselves too seriously.
While Claire can be a bit of a daydreamer, she’s also equal parts hard worker. Once she gets into the groove of a job, she’s worth her weight in gold for how much muscle she’ll put into it. She’ll even do it without the promise of anything other than the satisfaction of a job well done, although, she’ll never say no to a treat for finishing.
When Claire’s not laughing, coming up with the most fascinating projects, or working hard, she most likely has her nose in a book. Claire is by nature an early riser, and I often shuffle into the kitchen to find she’s snuggled on the couch, reading. Or in the car to school or gymnastics, she’s reading. Or late at night, when she should be asleep, I can almost bet, she’s probably reading. She devours books that would take me twice as long, and can comprehend themes well beyond her years.
And if there were a single word to sum up Claire, it’d be: CATS. Or possibly kittens. She’d be happy with either.
Claire’s birthday this year was a little unconventional. Jack had to go out of town on a quick work trip, but that meant he left mid-day on Claire’s special day. So, since Claire’s that kind of person, we improvised. The day before her birthday, she was excused from doing chores and while the rest of us cleaned, she decided to go with Jack to help someone move. When she came back, she decided to help with chores anyway. Then, she wanted to bake her own cake.
That afternoon, she spent a good hour decorating her cake to look like a uni-kitty. You know what’s so funny about that? She doesn’t even like cake, she just likes to decorate cake. A contradiction, I tell you.
Since we always let the kids choose their own birthday dinner, Claire decided to go all out (because that’s how she parties and you only turn ten once). It was a feast of crab legs, ramen, pot stickers, sushi, blueberries, and egg rolls.
Then, she showered and asked for her hair to be curled so she’d look fabulous on her actual birthday, we sang Happy Birthday and shared her beautiful cake along with ice cream. She ate about two bites and turned it over to her siblings to share.
She decided to withhold her presents until her actual birthday. It’s so fun watching her open gifts because she has such expressive gratitude that shows on every inch of her face. She’d love opening a rock if that’s what someone wrapped up for her.
Then, the inevitable au revoir came and we sent Jack off on his quick work trip. The rest of the day wasn’t particularly fantastic, but that didn’t really matter to Claire.
Except when she wasn’t doing so well in Phase 10. Apparently, no one got the memo that it was her birthday and she was not allowed to be skipped or otherwise jinxed.
Evelyn made it up to her though by baking mini eclairs for Claire because…hahahaha…Claire? Eclair? Get it?
I love birthdays, not only because each child gets to have their own special day, but because I love reminiscing about how amazing their lives have been. Claire has enriched our family in ways that I can’t even begin to describe. She’s a doll, an absolute sweetheart, a loyal friend, and a fierce protector. Plus, she looks like I did when I was younger, but is a hundred times cooler than I’ll ever be and is so gorgeous already. She’s never met a person she doesn’t like and she has the ability to stand for what she believes in while still loving another who thinks differently. Ten years with her has gone fast and there’s no going back (goodbye, single digits!) but we are so excited to see where the next ten years take her. We love our Claire Bear and wish her the happiest of birthdays!