Nefelibata

My Josephine,

nefelibataI learned a new word today. It’s Portuguese: “Nefelibata.” Literally, it means cloud walker.

But as soon as I read it, I knew what it meant.

It meant you.

You are deep and spacious. You seldom anchor yourself to physical reality; instead, you enjoy flying off to your own magical inventions. There are times when I stand over the kitchen sink, or I wait for you at the carpool lane, and I see you going there. Your eyes become soft and your mouth opens in slight wonder. And I feel a nostalgia, and a longing to go there with you. I wish I could forget my place and go off with you on some grand adventure in the sky.

But I can’t follow you to where you go, as much as I might want to. Do not worry, though; I have a strong consolation — when you come back to me and tell me your tales of all the things you did in the clouds. When I hear you talk about purple hands crawling like spiders, or about people who cry and sing at the same time, or about girls who ride tigers through jungles, I feel filled. I imagine you in those places, and I know that it is where you belong.

I know it can be hard for you, to stay in a math lesson, to stay in the task of your chores, to stay in the sheet music on the stand, but I want you to know you have a gift.

In some ways it makes you a little different; it makes things a little difficult, but that’s okay.

You’re doing great.bc3b9ca8b9f366332878f6b364939339

It is not always easy for a little girl to live with the soul of a bird.

My Jo. My spark of magic in every day life. Promise me you will never give up on your clouds.

Like every mother, I wish I could keep from you the things that inevitably happen in human reality. But, like every mother, I can’t.

Hard things will come to you. Illness and loss will make their home with you. Tragedy only takes time.

There is no way to hold the world at bay.

But I believe in you and the special gifts you hold. And I know that you are strong, and creative, and full of purpose. And I hope that you know there is us – the small army of family and friends who cheer for you, support you, and have never lost faith in your abilities.

If I could give to you what I have learned from my own battles, I would. But I know that is something you have to do on your own. And I also know you will learn things I will never know.

But promise me, please, my static girl, that you will always remember I love you, and that I could never stop loving you, no matter what.

This letter might not make a lot of sense to you now. It might make you want to throw up in a few years. I hope that one day, you will pick it up and understand it’s meaning.

But until that day . . .

unnamedFor now, you are six. You wear pants, a dress, and a skirt to school. You have your hair cut short because you cannot be bothered by extra nuisances. You sing your own compositions in the shower, you think all creatures are magnificent and beautiful, you keep rats in your pockets as you run around the house, you love magic and books, you climb up walls, and you are the greatest Jo a family could ever have.

Please, always be just who you are.

And please, never let anyone convince you that isn’t good enough.

Because you are incredible in so many ways. And you can, and will, do great things.

I love you, Jo.

Stay Magic.

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2 thoughts on “Nefelibata

  1. Anonymous says:

    If only I could put into words the things swimming around in my head the way you do Kayleen. This might be the absolutely most wonderful story to a daughter ever written. Thank you. Love you.
    Auntie Jennie

  2. Kayleen Barlow says:

    Oh Kayleen I am so pleased to know Josephine Rose, as would the two great ladies whose name she carries. They are now above the clouds in that happy place called heaven. Jo is so blessed to have you as a mother who understands her so well. You are and always were something special and now you have a daughter Nefelibata .I hope you will continue to write as you have a great gift we would all like to share. Thank you. Love grandma.

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